- WhatsApp rumour of child-lifters' in the area led to attack
- Priests were rescued in Mahur, they were later handed over to police
- Over 20 people have died in mob attacks across the country in 2 months
Amid concern over mob killings driven by WhatsApp messages, the army today arrived just in time at Assam's Mahur town to save the lives of three priests who were under attack from a large crowd that believed they were kidnappers out to get children. Three others were rescued by the police 29 km away, at Haflong. The police said villagers attacked the men because rumours of "child-lifters" in the area were doing the rounds on WhatsApp.
The priests from Uttar Pradesh -- aged between 26 and 31 years - had just arrived in Mahur, around 250 km from state capital Guwahati, when their car was targeted. A mob stopped the vehicle, dragged them out and an argument started.
As the crowd grew, some locals, fearing a situation similar to Karbi Anglong, where two men were beaten to death last month on suspicion of being child lifters, called in the local army unit. The soldiers reached the spot within minutes and rescued one of the priests. The other two, who had managed to escape, were caught by locals about half-a-kilometre away and handed over to the army.
The priests were taken to the army camp for questioning and then turned over to the police.
In Haflong too, locals tried to attack three "strangers", suspecting them to be kidnappers.
Last month, two men were beaten to death in Karbi Anglong's Dengaon, an area from where many have been killed over the years on suspicion of witchcraft. The killings took place after rumours spread on social media about the presence of child kidnappers in the area.
Over the last two months, around 20 killings have taken place across the country following social media-based rumours.
Last week, five men were beaten to death in Maharashtra's Dhule. One of the WhatsApp videos doing the rounds in the area, spreading rumours about the murder of children for their organs, was using five-year-old photographs from Syria showing children who died from nerve gas.