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

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.


New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern calls September election

Updated 8 min 40 sec ago

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern calls September election

  • The center-left leader on Tuesday announced Kiwis would go to the polls on September 19
  • The New Zealand economy has struggled under low growth, while the cost of living has risen
WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called a general election for September, in a vote that will test whether her widespread popularity overseas is matched by support at home.

The center-left leader on Tuesday announced Kiwis would go to the polls on September 19, two months ahead of the last possible date for the ballot, when she will seek a second three-year term.

“I will be asking New Zealanders to continue to support my leadership and the current direction of the government, which is grounded in stability, a strong economy and progress on the long term challenges facing New Zealand,” Ardern said.

The 39-year-old’s first term won her international fame — she became a mother while in office and received praise for her sensitive handling of the Christchurch mosques killings and the White Island volcano tragedy.

But while she has been feted overseas, opinion polls show her standing at home has slipped.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges has led the center-right National party into more populist territory, attacking Ardern over a land dispute with Maori groups and attacking her gun buy-back scheme introduced after Christchurch.

Ardern has also come under fire for her party’s long-running KiwiBuild scheme, which was designed to make owning a home more affordable by constructing 100,000 homes, but has so far failed to match expectations.

Bridges reacted to the election announcement by pledging to lead a government that “will deliver” on its promises

“New Zealanders know we will get things done, whether it’s more money in your pocket, a stronger economy, less tax, building infrastructure and roads or keeping families safer from increasing gang violence,” he said.

The most recently published opinion polls, both produced late last year, showed Bridge’s National Party ahead but Labour, with its New Zealand First and Green Party allies could muster enough support to remain in power.

The election announcement comes just days before the government is to announce details of a NZ $12 billion ($7.85 billion) infrastructure spending package designed to stimulate the economy.

The New Zealand economy has struggled under low growth, while the cost of living has risen.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the infrastructure spend to be released this week will target roads, rail, schools and health care projects across the country.

ANZ Bank’s latest economic outlook said this would add to an “improved domestic outlook” and it expected the central bank to keep the official cash rate on hold at 1.0 percent for the foreseeable future.

The poll date avoids school holidays and All Blacks matches, which are said to have a bearing on election outcomes.