India

India mobs kill five over 'social media rumour'

Protestors assemble with placards and during a multi-city "Not in my name" protest in Mumbai on June 28, 2017, following a spate of anti-Muslim killings in India in recent months. Image copyright AFP

Mobs in southern India have killed at least five people and injured 20 others amid recent social media rumours about "child kidnapping gangs".

Police say the messages, which were being spread widely, warned of gangs in at least three southern states, which have led to mass panic.

Mobs appear to be targeting "strangers" - in this case migrants from north India who are employed as labourers.

Police have sent out mass messages warning against "rumours".

"We are also using three-wheeler auto-rickshaws with loudspeakers to spread the message,'' senior police official T Yoganand told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi.

It is not clear when and how the rumours started, he said.

One of the victims in Andhra Pradesh state was lynched because he spoke Hindi and not the local language, Telugu, police said.

Another victim in neighbouring Telangana state died in hospital after being accosted by a mob while he was entering a mango orchard at night.

Police say the other deaths occurred in similar circumstances.

Hysteria over child kidnapping rumours in recent weeks has also been reported from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

In the most recent incident, more than 30 people were arrested over the lynching of a 55-year-old woman earlier this month.

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