Vigilantes in the North West face charges of kidnapping and assault after attacking three people they suspected of being criminals, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Residents in the area were abducting suspected criminals in what they called “Operation Hlasela,” said Sergeant Philani Nkwalase.

They would then assault their victims in an attempt to force them to confess to their “crimes”, he said.

Nkwalase said a man was recently abducted while leaving the Taung Magistrate's Court and was taken to a house, where he was assaulted.

Police were tipped off about his whereabouts, raided the house and found he was being held against his will, along with two other people.

One of the victims was taken to a police station and charged with theft. Another was kept in custody for his own safety before being released.

“We have not made any arrests yet, but we are investigating a case of assault and kidnapping,” said Nkwalase.

“We strongly condemn this unlawful practice and will charge anyone linked to the abduction and assault of the victims.” - Sapa