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Man arrested for faking online sale of Indian Muslim women

Police in India have arrested a man alleged to be behind the offering for sale of prominent Muslim women through a fake online auction, according to government officials, in a case that has sparked anger and outrage across the country.

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Satej Patil, the technology minister for the Maharashtra state, said late Monday that the cyber unit of the Mumbai Police has detained a 21-year-old engineering student from the southern city of Bengaluru in the neighboring Karnataka state and registered a case against him. Police did not reveal the identity of the suspect, and it wasn’t clear whether the man had made the auction website.

Photographs of more than 100 prominent Indian Muslim women, including journalists, activists, film stars and artists, were displayed last weekend without their permission on a website and put up for fake auction. The women listed on the website also included a 65-year-old mother of a disappeared Indian student and Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.

The website, which was taken down within 24 hours, was called “Bulli Bai,” a derogatory slang for Indian Muslims. Though there was no real sale involved, the Muslim women listed on the website said the auction was intended to humiliate them, many of whom have been vocal about rising Hindu nationalism in India and some of the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The website was hosted on GitHub, a San Francisco-based coding platform. A company spokesperson said GitHub had taken down the user account which had hosted the website on its platform, and that it would cooperate with investigating authorities.

The fake auction unleashed outrage on Twitter after complaints from the victims, with several women posting screenshots after finding their photos listed on the website. Women rights groups and politicians from opposition parties urged the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to take action against the online harassment of Muslim women, prompting India’s technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to promise strict measures.

Police in at least three states said they have opened investigations into the incident and filed criminal complaints against developers of the website, based on the complaints of the targeted women.

This was not the first time Muslim women were listed on a fake auction website. Last year in June, a similar website called “Sulli Deals,” also a derogatory slang for Muslim women, was created for the same purpose. That website remained online for weeks and was only taken down by authorities after complaints from victims. Police opened an investigation into that case, but no one was arrested or detained.

Indian women, particularly Muslims, have often found themselves as the target of hate and abuse on social media platforms, including Twitter. Outspoken Muslim women, including journalists and activists and those critical of Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, have received threats of rape and violence.

The fake auction website, many of the victims say, is the latest attempt to intimidate them.

Khadija Khan, a lawyer and journalist with Bar & Bench website, said she received a Twitter notification on New Year’s Eve that informed her she was tagged in a tweet that displayed her picture as part of the fake auction. The account has since been suspended.

Khan’s initial reaction was to report the tweet and block the user, dismissing it as spam. But she soon received messages from her friends and colleagues who confirmed to her that she was also on the list.

“My initial reaction was indifference and dismissal because we are used to daily trolling but by the next day, it had turned into shock and horror. Realizing what it actually was gave me nightmares,” Khan said.

Khan found support from her family and colleagues, but the incident left her shaken.

“It’s a message that ‘Look! We can brazenly humiliate and sell Muslim women online and still go scot-free while they are still vying for some modicum of justice,’” Khan said.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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