Two men have been killed in India by an angry mob who believed they were part of a fake child kidnapping ring, rumors of which are being spread throughout the nation on Whatsapp.
At least seven people have now been killed in connection to the rumored abduction ring since April, which police are reportedly trying to quash before it leads to more lynchings.
Eighteen people have been arrested in the Assam state over the deaths this weekend of Abijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das, who were beaten by the crazed crowd when they stopped for directions in Panjuri Kashari.
“We have also arrested some persons who were involved in spreading rumours on social media,” Kuladhar Saikia, director general of Assam Police, said to Al Jazeera.
Residents thought they were purported kidnappers they were warned about in a Whatsapp video, so they attack, the BBC reported. One of the men begged to be spared during the brazen attack, which set off protests Sunday in their native city of Guwahati.
India residents have reportedly been in a panic about a video of two motorcycle-riding men snatching a child from a group and taking off.
The clip is actually a snippet from a Pakistani public service announcement, however, which the BBC reported leaves out a segment in which the men explaining the danger.
Local news channels picked up the rumor, spurring the concern and compounding the fictitious account. Authorities have set up ways to monitor posts in areas in a bid to fight back the fake warning.