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Social media rumors trigger violence in India; 3 killed by mobs

Villagers feared gangs of kidnappers were targeting children, but police say there is no indication they existed.

HYDERABAD, India — Mobs of villagers killed at least three people and attacked several others after social media messages warned that gangs of kidnappers were roaming southern India in search of children, police said Friday.

Authorities said there was no indication that such gangs actually existed.

Police officer E. Ramchandra Reddy said six villagers were arrested for allegedly killing a 33-year-old motorized rickshaw driver in Jiyapalli, a village in Telangana state, on Wednesday night. The villagers suspected the driver was a child abductor.

Image: Map of India
Jiyapalli is located in the Indian state of Telangana.Google Maps

He was leaving for his nearby hometown after visiting his brother in the village, Reddy said.

Two deaths were reported in similar attacks Tuesday in other villages in the state, he said.

A woman from eastern Bihar state was thrashed by a mob at a railroad station in Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh state and was hospitalized in critical condition after she was suspected of seeking to abduct children, top state police officer M. Malakondaiah said. She did not know the local Telugu language, creating a misunderstanding with local villagers, he said.

In Bangalore, the capital of neighboring Karnataka state, police detained nine people for tying a person to a tree and beating him on Tuesday, senior police officer T. Suneel Kumar said. He said there had been no incidents of gangs abducting children, despite video messages circulating on social media.

Kumar said Friday the postings created fear, and villagers formed vigilante groups to look for suspected abductors.