Indian police arrested five men after hundreds of people went on a violent rampage targeting Africans outside of New Delhi where a teenage boy died of a suspected drug overdose.
Senior police officer Sujata Singh told AFP news agency on Tuesday that four other suspects were on the run, adding about 300 people were involved in the riots in Greater Noida city that started on Monday
One television station showed an angry mob hitting a car with sticks, while another showed dozens of attackers using steel chairs to hit shoppers in a mall.
“Rumours were being spread that Africans are behind the youth’s death and racist comments were made on social media. It looks racially motivated,” Singh said.
The unrest came after police in Greater Noida released five Nigerian students detained over the youth’s death, saying they had no evidence against them.
Africans living in India frequently face discrimination and even violence and are often accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Endurance Amalawa, one of the attacked students, said he was outside a mall with his brother when they saw the mob running towards them.
“We kept crying for help, but no one came, not even the security marshals. I was running but they followed me and attacked me,” he said on NDTV television.
“Some people were hitting us, pushing us out… They dragged my brother outside and start hitting him.”
India’s foreign ministry condemned the incident as “deplorable” and said it had assured the Nigerian ambassador that all steps were being taken to protect the country’s nationals.
“The government is committed to ensuring safety and security of all foreigners in India. People from Africa, including students and youth, remain our valued partners,” said a ministry statement.
In a Facebook post, the Association of African Students in India told its members to stay indoors and not attend lectures on Tuesday for fear of possible attacks.
The issue was thrown into the spotlight after the stoning to death of a Congolese national in a dispute over an auto-rickshaw last year.
After that, African ambassadors in New Delhi threatened to advise students from their countries to avoid universities in the capital for their own safety.