Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Australia police say Indian driver attack was ‘opportunistic’

AFP , SYDNEY

Australian police yesterday dismissed as “opportunistic” the gang beating of an Indian taxi driver, the second attack targeting an Indian driver in as many days.

The 25-year-old suffered bruising to his upper body and swelling to his face after being assaulted by four passengers in the town of Ballarat, 110km west of Melbourne, just before midnight on Friday, police said.

“While [he was] driving the four became abusive towards the taxi driver and started assaulting him, and one on the rear seat spat at the driver,” police said in a statement.

“The males attempted to pull on the handbrake and tried to remove the driver’s hands from the steering wheel.”

He tried to chase two of the men who fled after he pulled over, and a third punched him to the ground as he ran from the cab.

Police believe the group were aged between 16 and 18.

SUSPECTS

“We have some ideas who the offenders may be and we believe they are known to us and they’re just opportunistic,” said Detective Senior Constable Jeff Highthorn, denying the incident was racially motivated.

It was the second time in as many days an Indian taxi driver had been targeted in the town.

A local man, aged 48, was jailed for three months and fined US$1,500 late on Friday, just hours after threatening to kill a 24-year-old driver and assaulting him.

The death threats allegedly made reference to the driver’s race, local media reported.

TENSIONS

Attacks against Indian nationals, including the fatal stabbing this month of a Punjab-born student and alleged arson attempt against another man, have inflamed diplomatic tensions with Australia.

New Delhi has expressed “absolute displeasure and concern” over the violence, prompting the Australian foreign minister to call his Indian counterpart to offer assurances.

The issue has prompted a strong reaction in the Indian press, with one newspaper likening Australian police to the Ku Klux Klan.

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