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.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 44 min 44 sec ago
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.