A large crowd turned up in a city square to watch the hanging of the woman-beast, only to be met by police who attempted to convince them that the rumour was in fact completely false, Jomhuri-Eslami reported.

In the ensuing attempt by security forces to disperse the crowd, the disappointed would-be spectators struck back and several windows of surrounding buildings were reported to have been smashed. Police made 50 arrests, the conservative daily said.

Ferocious feline

A local journalist contacted by news agency AFP explained that elaborate rumours had been circulating whereby a woman had "insulted religious values" during the fasting month of Ramadan, and as divine punishment had had her head turned into that of a ferocious feline.

"Drawings of the woman with the head of a tigress were even distributed in the city, especially in schools," said the journalist, who asked not to be named. "The rumour was that she was to be hanged."

According to local folklore, the insulting of Islamic values during the fasting month is particularly serious and sinners run the risk of having their head turned into that of an animal.