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African students advised to stay indoors after attacks by roving Indian mobs

African students advised to stay indoors after attacks by roving Indian mobs
Indian police and onlookers surround a group of African nationals at a shopping mall in Greater Noida, India. (- / AFP/Getty Images)

Indian mobs near the nation's capital have attacked and wounded at least nine university students from African countries since Sunday in a spasm of racial violence that a senior official called "deplorable."

The attacks — which began after an Indian family accused five Nigerian men of kidnapping and killing their teenage son — prompted the Assn. of African Students in India to warn its members in Greater Noida, a satellite city of New Delhi, to "remain indoors" to avoid being hurt.

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In the latest incident, a 24-year-old Kenyan woman was hauled out of a taxi and beaten unconscious with sticks by about a dozen people early Wednesday.

The woman regained consciousness and got herself to a medical clinic in a rickshaw before police brought her to a hospital, where she was treated and released, said Abdou Ibrahim, a senior advisor to the students association.

The group issued a statement on Facebook discouraging "any form of retaliation."

"With regards to food and other daily home needs that might prompt anyone to go out, we are working towards creating a system to ensure that supplies [get] across to you all," it said.

Police in Greater Noida have arrested five people and booked dozens more for violence as India's foreign minister urged authorities in Uttar Pradesh state to carry out an intensive investigation.

In one incident captured on cellphone video, a mob is seen thrashing and kicking a man as he lies on the ground of a shopping mall in Greater Noida.

"The government is committed to ensuring safety and security of all foreigners in India," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. "People from Africa, including students and youth, remain our valued partners."

Racially motivated attacks against Africans living in India are nothing new. Last year, a Tanzanian woman was pulled from her car and beaten in the southern city of Bangalore in an apparent revenge attack after an Indian woman was killed by a driver believed to be from Sudan.

Drawn by better job and educational prospects than back home, hundreds of thousands of Africans study or work in India despite what they describe as daily, almost shocking racism. Apartment owners often refuse to rent to them, and many say their skin color makes them the subject of taunts and occasionally physical violence.

Fair skin is a national obsession in India, where ads for skin-whitening creams run on the front pages of national newspapers. Africans also say Indians accuse them of prostitution, drug dealing and even cannibalism.

"People are spreading very negative rumors, and that is why our host community is having some kind of negative image about Africans living here in India," Ibrahim said.

The family of the Indian teenager in Greater Noida said he had died of an overdose of drugs supplied by a group of Nigerian men. Five Nigerians were held for questioning but released because of a lack of evidence, police said.

Follow @SBengali on Twitter for more news from South Asia

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