New Delhi - A 65-year-old woman was lynched by a mob in southern India who believed that she was a child trafficker, police said on Friday, announcing the arrests of some two dozen suspects.

The crime took place in the state of Tamil Nadu's Tiruvannamalai district on Wednesday following rumours and false messages on Facebook and WhatsApp about the kidnapping of children in the region.

The woman, who was travelling with her relatives in a car, had stopped to ask directions to a local temple when she saw some children playing in the area and gave them chocolates, local police officer K Neelavadakkan said.

"Villagers who have been unnerved by the fake messages on child abductions gathered around the car and started shouting at them, accusing them of being child kidnappers," he said.

"They managed to drive away but were blocked by mobs a short distance away, where they were dragged out, punched and kicked, and beaten by sticks. The woman died on the scene, while four others, including the driver, were seriously injured," he added.

Neelavadakkan said that there had been no incidents of kidnapping or child trafficking in the area, but rumours were circulating wildly.

Police had arrested 23 out of a total of 62 suspects from the mob, and two more were detained on Friday for questioning.

Incidents of mob justice and vigilantism are frequently reported in India. Last month, a man was mistaken for a thief and beaten to death by crowds in the same state.

Last year, mobs killed six people in the eastern state of Jharkhand on suspicions that they had kidnapped children.