People in a southwestern Japanese city have come under attack from monkeys.

They are trying to snatch babies, biting and clawing at flesh, and sneaking into nursery schools.

The attacks - on 58 people since July 8 - are getting so bad that Yamaguchi city hall hired a special unit to hunt the animals with tranquilliser guns.

The monkeys aren't interested in food so traps haven't worked.

They have targeted mostly children and the elderly.

"They are so smart, and they tend to sneak up and attack from behind, often grabbing at your legs," city official Masato Saito said.

A woman was assaulted by a monkey while hanging laundry on her veranda.

They were taken aback and frightened by how big and fat the monkeys were.