A family’s attempt to sacrifice a three-year-old child was foiled by the villagers in the Indian state of Assam on Saturday.

The incident came to light after one of the villagers saw smoke coming from the home and alerted the police and other villagers. On looking closer, the villagers saw the family members, including women, chanting prayers and placing the child in the altar. They then noticed a priest standing beside the altar with a sword in the hand, ready to behead the child.

The villagers tried to stop the family from sacrificing the child, however, the priest threatened to attack them with the sword. As the family continued with the chanting, police reached the spot and attempted to stop the ritual. When the family started attacking them with stones, the officers fired in the air to bring the situation under control. Three male family members suffered injuries in the shooting. The child was rescued. The gender of the child was not known as local reports gave contradictory information about it.

Speaking to local daily the Times of India, a villager said, “Four men, including the priest, and three women had been performing a bizarre puja (ritual) at their residence for days. Today (Saturday) the men set their house and a bike on fire. When a local youth saw smoke, he rushed there and saw them preparing to sacrifice a three-year-old, also a family member.”

“The women were ringing bells at a makeshift temple on their premises. Amid the loud noise, someone managed to rescue the child. That was when the family hit back, attacking us and the police with sharp weapons and stones,” the villager added.

Speaking about the shooting, a police officer said, “At one point, we had to open fire as a preventive measure and three male members of the family were injured. They are undergoing treatment at a Hospital. We are investigating the incident.”

Villagers said one of the accused is a school teacher and that the priest had been conducting such rituals at their home ever since a girl killed herself three years ago.

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Representational image of police officials investigating a crime scene in Bangalore, Karnataka, in southern India, Sept. 5, 2017. MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images