Asia-Pacific

Facebook rumours lead to lynching deaths of eight people in Bangladesh

Mother-of-two Taslima Begum was among the victims. Source: Police Handout

False social media rumours in Bangladesh have led to the deaths of eight people, including two women, who were killed by angry mobs seeking revenge.

Eight people have been killed in lynching attacks in Bangladesh after false social media rumours claimed children were being abducted and sacrificed as offerings for the construction of a bridge. 

The victims include mother-of-two, Taslima Begum, who was beaten to death outside a school in Dhaka by a mob who believed she was involved in the kidnappings. 

A deaf man, who was visiting his daughter, was killed by vigilantes on the same day.

Their deaths were sparked by rumours, spread mostly via Facebook, that children were being beheaded as offerings to fund what is set to be Bangladesh's biggest bridge, south of the capital. Dhaka. 

Police chief Javed Patwary confirmed none of the victims were involved in child abduction. 

"We have analysed every single case of these eight killings. Those who were killed by lynching mobs ... no one was a child kidnapper," he told reporters.

Twenty-five YouTube channels, 60 Facebook pages and 10 websites have been shut down amid concerns surrounding the dissemination of false information on social media. 

Across the country, police have been ordered to monitor online platforms and issue public notices if misinformation is detected. 

More than 30 people were reportedly attacked over the rumours, which have been circulating for around two weeks. 

Eight people have been arrested over Ms Begum's murder, including a 19-year-old man, who is the prime suspect, according to local media. 

He was allegedly seen beating Ms Bagum in a video that surfaced on social media. 

Five people suspected to be involved spreading the rumours have been detained, according to AFP news agency. 

Vigilante killings are not unusual in Bangladesh, but the latest mob lynchings have sparked concerns of growing lawlessness across the country.  

According to data from human rights organisation Odhikar, 465 people were killed in extrajudicial killings in 2018, up from 155 in 2017. 

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