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Beards, hair cut off in attacks on Amish • Friday October 7, 2011

A group of religious castoffs has been attacking fellow Amish, cutting off their hair and beards in an apparent feud over spiritual differences in the deeply traditional community, a sheriff said Thursday.

The Associated Press says

Members of a group of families disavowed by mainstream Amish have cut the beards off men and the hair off a half-dozen or more men and women, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said. He said the cutting apparently was meant to be degrading.

The attacks occurred over the past three weeks in the heart of Ohio’s Amish population, one of the largest in the United States.

CBS-affiliate WTRF reports

Twelve Amish people left Jefferson County and headed to Trumball County and forced their way into a home, six men and six women,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla. “The men knocked the man to the ground and cut his hair and beard and the women knocked the woman the ground and cut her hair off.”

Sheriff Abdalla said Amish families in three other counties claim the Bergholz clan burst into their home cutting the beards and hair from women, men and even their children.

A motive for the crime is still unclear. Under Amish tradition, men no longer cut their beard after they’re married.

The Sheriff calls these alleged crimes degrading. “As one Amishman told me, he would rather be dead than have his beard cut off,” he said.

Abdalla says yet another incident involved the clan arriving in horse trailers at Amish homes in Carroll and Holmes County.

“There were five victims, men, women, a 13-yea-old girl thrown to the ground and had her hair cut and elderly 75-year-old woman thrown against the wall,” said Abdalla.

The Sheriff says fear is spreading across the Amish community. “They were making threats on who the next targets are going to be,” said Abdalla, “so when does it end.”

The Associated Press points out that

The investigation has been hampered by the traditional reluctance of Amish to turn to law enforcement. [...]

Abdalla said the motive may be related to unspecified religious differences involving 18 Amish families, 17 of them related, who have drawn previous attention from law enforcement, including a threat against the sheriff and a relative convicted of sexual contact with a minor.

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