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Four Indians kidnapped in Libya by ISIS, two released

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New Delhi/Hyderabad: Four Indian nationals were abducted in Sirte in Libya where the Islamic State group holds sway. Two men were released on Friday, the government said.

Image by Guardian
Image by Guardian

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “Four Indians abducted in Libya – I am happy we have been able to secure the release of Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar. Trying for other two.”

Of the two men released, one belongs to Raichur and the other to Bengaluru, said officials.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted: “Welcome news from Libya. 2 of the 4 detained Indians brought back safely to University of Sirte. Our efforts continue for the remaining two.”

Earlier, Swarup said the Indian mission in Tripoli came to know at 11 p.m. on July 29 that four Indian nationals who were returning to India via Tripoli and Tunis were “detained” at a check point, 50 km from Sirte.

In a statement, he said two of them are from Hyderabad and one from Raichur and one from Bengaluru.

Three were faculty members at the University of Sirte and one was working at the Sirte University branch at Jufra, he said.

The Islamic State is suspected to have carried out the kidnapping.

The Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments on Friday said they were making all efforts to seek the safe and early release of two men from the state who were among the four Indians kidnapped.

Andhra Pradesh NRI Affairs Minister Palle Raghunath Reddy said the state government was making efforts with the help of the Indian government and Libya to secure release of Balram, a native of Srikakulam district in north coastal Andhra.

One of them, Gopikrishna, is from Hyderabad. Balram is from neighbouring Andhra.

Family members of Gopikrishna said they had no information whether the four were kidnapped by ISIS or some other group.

Relatives and friends of Gopikrishna gathered at their residence in Nacharam in Hyderabad after learning about the kidnapping.

Gopikrishna has been working as an assistant professor at University of Sirte since 2007. According to family members, he has been coming home on leave every year for 45 to 50 days.

Kalyani, wife of Gopikrishna, said he spoke to her on Wednesday over phone and informed that he was coming home via Tunis. He also told her not to worry as his mobile phone will be switched off during the two-and-half hour long journey from the university to Tripoli.

“There was no phone call from him after that and yesterday we came to know about this incident,” she said.

“We came to know that they were stopped and taken into custody while car driver was sent back. We don’t know what happened after that,” a family member said.

The family members also contacted Indian embassy in Tripoli. The embassy officials told them that the issue will be sorted out in a day or two.

The kidnapping comes even as the fate of 39 Indians kidnapped in June 2014 from Mosul in Iraq remains unknown. The 39 were kidnapped by the Islamic State militants. The government maintains the men, all laborers from mostly Punjab, are still alive.

The Indian government had last year issued an advisory asking its citizens to leave Libya.

Libya has been hit by continuing violence with various militias and factions battling it out for control since Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

(IANS)

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Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

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Twitter to soon release Snapchat like feature. VOA
Fake accounts on Twitter are many. VOA

Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google are taking steps to police terrorists and hate groups on their sites, but more work needs to be done, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Tuesday.

The organization released its annual digital terrorism and hate report card and gave a B-plus to Facebook, a B-minus to Twitter and a C-plus to Google.

Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen said the company had no comment on the report. Representatives for Google and Twitter did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

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Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said Facebook in particular built “a recognition that bad folks might try to use their platform” as its business model. “There is plenty of material they haven’t dealt with to our satisfaction, but overall, especially in terms of hate, there’s zero tolerance,” Cooper said at a New York City news conference.

Rick Eaton, a senior researcher at the Wiesenthal Center, said hateful and violent posts on Instagram, which is part of Facebook, are quickly removed, but not before they can be widely shared.

He pointed to Instagram posts threatening terror attacks at the upcoming World Cup in Moscow. Another post promoted suicide attacks with the message, “You only die once. Why not make it martyrdom.”

Cooper said Twitter used to merit an F rating before it started cracking down on Islamic State tweets in 2016. He said the move came after testimony before a congressional committee revealed that “ISIS was delivering 200,000 tweets a day.”

ALSO READ: Teenagers using Social Media more likely to suffer sleep deprivations: Study

facebook
This photo shows Facebook launched on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. VOA

Cooper and Eaton said that as the big tech companies have gotten more aggressive in shutting down accounts that promote terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism, promoters of terrorism and hate have migrated to other sites such as VK.com, a Facebook lookalike that’s based in Russia.

There also are “alt-tech” sites like GoyFundMe, an alternative to GoFundMe, and BitChute, an alternative to Google-owned YouTube, Cooper said.

“If there’s an existing company that will give them a platform without looking too much at the content, they’ll use it,” he said. “But if not, they are attracted to those platforms that have basically no rules.”

The Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, hate, and terrorism. (VOA)