Indian police arrest 25 in latest WhatsApp rumor-led lynching

Mohammad Azam and his three friends had come to visit their friend Mohammed Bashir Afroz at Handikera village in Bidar on Sunday

Police said 27-year-old Azam and his companions were returning to their home in neighbouring Hyderabad city after visiting a friend in Bidar when they stopped midway and offered chocolates to local school children.

Following this, a huge crowd surrounded the men and started taking pictures and videos.

This was the third such incident in the state.

The three were rescued and taken to a hospital after the police arrived at the scene and resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the mob. The police have arrested 32 people.

The deceased was identified as Mohammed Azam while those injured were called Talha Ismail, Mohammed Salman and Mohammed Bashir.

Along their way, they halted at a tea stall, which was in a vicinity of a school near Murki village in Aurad taluka at about 4.30pm.

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Azam's friends, including a Qatar national, 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. One of the men offered the kids some candies, after which the locals assumed that they were trying to abduct the children. The locals objected to it, but the men managed to leave after discussions. They pulled out all of them from the vehicle and started beating them up. Bidar SP D Devaraju told TOI that police tried to intervene and convince the villagers that the youth were not childlifters, but the mob did not pay heed. They could finally extricate them. He died on the spot. In 14 separate incidents of mob lynching which occurred from May to July, 20 persons have been killed.

Police have also arrested the administrator of a WhatsApp group on which the false messages were spread.

Ajam and his friends were driving at a very high speed, and when they encountered the road blocks, they could not brake.

Unsubstantiated rumours about child traffickers spreading through social websites have been wreaking havoc everywhere, and most of the times, innocent people face the heat.

The pair managed to flee the scene but the claims made it onto WhatsApp, which led to dozens of people swarming their auto and dragging them from the vehicle to beat them with sticks and stones. "When the residents saw them, they began screaming "child abductors, child abductors", an officer with the Kamalanagar police station told TNM.

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