Arrests after India mob lynches man over WhatsApp child abduction rumor

The men were arrested over the murder of 27-year-old Mohammad Azam who was attacked along with two friends by a 2,000-strong mob. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 July 2018
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Arrests after India mob lynches man over WhatsApp child abduction rumor

  • Indian police said they arrested 25 people after a man was killed by a mob in the country’s latest lynching
  • The men were arrested over the murder of 27-year-old Mohammad Azam

NEW DELHI: Indian police said Sunday they have arrested 25 people after a man was killed by a mob in the country’s latest lynching over suspicion of child kidnapping sparked by rumors on WhatsApp.
The men were arrested over the murder of 27-year-old Mohammad Azam who was attacked along with two friends by a 2,000-strong mob in southern Karnataka state’s Bidar district late Friday.
Azam’s friends were critically injured in the assault that came days after the Facebook-owned messaging service published advertisements in Indian newspapers offering tips to curb the spread of fake information on its platform.
More than 20 people have been lynched in India after being accused of child abduction in the last two months, according to media reports.
Police said Azam and his companions were returning to neighboring Hyderabad city after visiting their friend in Bidar when they stopped midway and offered chocolates to local children.
“One of them had bought chocolates from Qatar and tried to offer it to the children as a token of affection,” Bidar deputy police chief V. N. Patil told AFP.
But one among the group of children started crying, alerting the elders who accused the men of being child kidnappers amid rife social media rumors about child kidnapping rings in the area, the officer said.
Patil said the three managed to flee from the spot but were attacked by a much larger mob a few kilometers (miles) ahead after locals alerted nearby villages via Whatsapp.
Their car flipped after hitting a roadblock placed by the angry mob before they were dragged out of the vehicle and beaten with sticks and stones.
Three policemen were injured in rescue attempts as the mob rampaged for nearly an hour.
The attack comes after five people were lynched by a mob in neighboring Maharashtra state on July 1.
The mob had spotted the victims talking to a child at a market, triggering allegations of child abduction.
The spate of lynchings started last May in eastern Jharkhand state after rumors on WhatsApp about child kidnappers led to the lynching of seven men.
The rumors have since resurfaced, with 21 deaths reported in dozens of attacks across the country mostly targeting non-locals.
India accused Whatsapp of failing to curb false information on its platform.


UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

Updated 46 min 20 sec ago
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UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

  • Jeremy Hunt: It was disrespectful for Boris Johnson to turn down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate
  • Hunt says candidates should explain their Brexit positions

LONDON: Jeremy Hunt, one of the two candidates vying to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, said on Monday that rival Boris Johnson was a coward for avoiding public head-to-head debates on what to do about Brexit.
“On the question of debates, he is being a coward,” Foreign Secretary Hunt said. “It is cowardice not to appear in head-to-head debates.”
Hunt, 52, said it was disrespectful for Johnson to have turned down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate on Sky television.
“People need to know what you’re going to do and you need to answer those questions,” Hunt said. “I promise Boris Johnson the fight of his life and he’s going to have that and he’s going to lose.”
Johnson, 55, is the favorite to win a vote of 160,000 Conservative Party members who will decide who will be the next prime minister. Betting markets give him a 79 percent implied probability of winning the top job, down from 92 percent last week.
He has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on October 31 — with or without a deal — while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
Early on Friday, police were called to Johnson’s home after neighbors heard a loud altercation between him and his girlfriend. Police said there was no cause for police action.
The Guardian newspaper, which first reported the story, said an unidentified neighbor had heard Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, screaming followed by “slamming and banging.” At one point, Symonds could be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat.”
Johnson declined to answer questions about the incident at a hustings event in Birmingham on Saturday.
Hunt said the personal life of Johnson was irrelevant but that the candidates should explain their Brexit positions — and specifically what would a new leader do if lawmakers tried to sink a new government heading toward a no-deal Brexit.
“If parliament takes no-deal off the table before Oct. 31, will Boris call a general election?” Hunt said. “I think a general election would be catastrophic.”
Hunt said he would seek a better deal from the EU to leave on Oct. 31 and would, if absolutely necessary, leave without a deal. If parliament took a no-deal Brexit off the table, he intimated there would have to be delay.
“In that situation, you would have to carry on negotiating,” Hunt said. “I want to leave by Oct. 31 but if parliament stops it the prime minister has to obey the law.”
Johnson repeated on Monday that he would lead the United Kingdom out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
“We are going to come out of the EU on October 31,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph. “This time we are not going to bottle it.”
Like Hunt, Johnson promised lower taxes if he wins the top job.
When asked the naughtiest thing he had ever done, Hunt said: “When I was backpacking through India, I once had a Bhang Lassi — which is a kind of cannabis lassi — that’s the naughtiest thing I am prepared to confess to on this program.”