x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sharjah police arrest torture gang

The group allegedly kidnapped schoolchildren and filmed them being tortured then blackmailed them.

A gang abducted schoolchildren as young as 12, filmed them being tortured and extorted money from their families by threatening to post the humiliating videos on the internet website Facebook. The five gang members, who called themselves "Death Room", have been arrested by Sharjah Police and are believed to have kidnapped and blackmailed at least five mainly Indian schoolchildren aged between 12 and 15 years who came from the families of wealthy gold merchants and businessmen.

Sharjah Police today said the gang - made up of three "bidoons", UAE residents without an official identity, and two Pakistanis - would beat the boys and stub out burning cigarettes on their skin while filming them. They would then tell the terrified youngsters that they had to pay between Dh500 and Dh1,000 per week and said they would be killed if they told their parents or went to the police, an officer from Sharjah police's Preventive Security said.

Although Sharjah police know the identities of five victims and are in touch with their families, they believe the gang may have been blackmailing many more children over the course of many months, with their attacks leaving victims' families too scared for the safety of their children to let the authorities know. The gang members, some of whom had previous covictions for knife crime, police said, identified future targets by forcing their initial victims to reveal the identities of their richest fellow students and plundering the contact lists of their mobile phones.

Some families were terrorised by the gang to such an extent that they sent their children back from Sharjah to their home country to continue their schooling there. Some even hired bodyguards to be with their children at all times, police said. Police appealed for any victims or their families to come forward to help testify against the gang by calling a special 24-hour hotline on 06 548 7000.

tspender@thenational.ae