There are no breaking news at the moment

Rumour of child snatchers spread via WhatsApp has taken another life in Bidar district of Karnataka. A 32-year-old Google software engineer was beaten to death and three others, including a Qatari national, critically injured by a mob which suspected they were a group of “child lifters”.

WhatsApp rumours warning villagers of child lifters has taken more than a dozen lives across India since May. The Bidar incident is latest in the series of killings.

Mohammed Azam Ahmed of Malakpet in Hyderabad, who works with Google as a software engineer, died on the spot, while a Qatari national, Salham Eidal Kubaisi (38), and Noor Mohammed and Mohammed Salman from Barkas in Hyderabad suffered critical injuries and were admitted to the Bidar Government hospital initially before being shifted to Hyderabad.

An official from the Aurad Police Station, in whose area the lynching took place, told the Indian Express that three WhatsApp administrators who circulated the photos and messages that the four men were child kidnappers have been arrested. “We have also arrested 30 people who were part of the mob,’’ the official said.

Kubaisi’s wife Zaibunnisa told the Indian Express that the four had set off from Hyderabad Friday morning to meet a relative at Bidar and attend a social function. After the function, they were en route to see a piece of land which they were interested in purchasing.

“When they stopped for tea near a school at Murki village in Aurad taluka at about 4.30 pm, they saw school children heading home. Salham started handing out foreign chocolates, which he was carrying, to students. However, someone raised an alarm that strangers were luring kids with chocolates and people started gathering immediately,” she said.

She also said that the four men, sensing danger, fled in the Toyota Innova they were travelling in but by that time some people had taken photographs of them and circulated it on WhatsApp that they were kidnappers and should be stopped. The photos and the messages soon went viral.

“According to the victims, in the next village, villagers blocked the road with a felled tree. To avoid the blockade, Azam, who was driving, tried to go around it at high speed but ended up jumping over a culvert and the vehicle fell into the ditch. The mob pulled them out and beat them mercilessly,” said Ahmed Balala, MIM MLA from Malakpet.

“I met the victims and they said that two policemen reached the spot but could not prevent the mob from beating them up.” He also said that it was still not clear whether Azam Ahmed died due to injuries sustained when the vehicle went off the road or because he was beaten to death.

The government of India has pulled up WhatsApp over the spread of false message on this social media application. The company has not taken any concrete action to stop the spread of these fake messages.