Fourteen precious idols of Hindu deities were looted early on Friday from a centuries old math in Bihar's Samastipur district, police said.
All the idols -- of Ram, Janaki, Hanuman and Lakshman -- were made of gold and "ashtadhatu" -- an alloy of gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury.
Senior police officer Dipak Ranjan said a group of eight to 10 armed criminals looted the idols after taking two Home Guard personnel hostage.
"We have identified some suspects who may be connected with the incident," he said.
Similar thefts have been reported from Gaya, Bhagalpur, Kishanganj, Vaishali, Begusarai, Saran, Samastipur, Jamui, Nalanda, Rohtas, Sitamarhi and Patna districts. Except in a few cases, police have been unable to recover the stolen idols.
An official of the Bihar archaeology department said that ancient idols made of "ashtadhatu" were in great demand in the international market.
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