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Five armed Israeli teens detained amid crackdown on 'scary clown' trend

Capture d'écran du film 'ça', qui a contribué à inspirer le phénomène des faux clowns dans les villes d'Israël en septembre 2017.
(Capture d'écran: YouTube)
Trend of youths dressed as clowns scaring passers-by has sparked armed counter-gangs

Five Israeli teens in the southern city of Ashkelon armed with knives and sticks were detained by police who are in the midst of a major crackdown on a nation-wide "scary clown" trend among youths.

The trend, in which youths are dressing in frightening clown costumes and lurking in city streets and parks at night in order to scare passers-by, has sparked a counter-movement of other youth gangs arming themselves against the clowns.

The five teens, aged 13 to 16, told police that they were carrying the weapons in case they encountered the "scary clowns".

Police have warned that both trends -- the clown impersonators and armed counter-gangs -- are illegal and could result in serious harm if clowns are mistaken as a credible threat.

"We will not allow the public to be harmed, frightened or harassed, or to have daily life disrupted," police said in a statement on Sunday, addressing would-be clowns.

"At the same time, the police won’t allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. Actions like these will be met with uncompromising enforcement," they continued, addressing the counter-gangs.

"We will deal severely with these violent incidents," police warned.

Police have described the phenomenon as part of an "international trend that has gathered momentum on social media."

It is said to have been inspired by the recent blockbuster horror film "It", based on the 1986 novel by Stephen King, which features a murderous clown character named Pennywise.

"The concern is that the target of the prank will misinterpret the joke as threatening and will injure the perpetrator," police warned earlier this week.

Dozens of youths have been detained by police in the past weeks.

On Saturday, two teens from the Arab and Druze city of Shfaram in northern Israel were detained for questioning after police discovered costume masks and a screwdriver during a search of their vehicle.

The same weekend, police detained five youths with at least two clown costumes after responding to calls at a public park in the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank, near Jerusalem.

The plague of scary clowns broke out in the United States last year. 

There were sightings in South Carolina of people dressed as clowns trying to lure children into the woods.

The appearances soon spread, with more than 20 states reporting incidents, and although most were pranks or unverified threats, police made a handful of arrests, including for physical attacks.

The craze, fanned through social media, spread to Canada, Europe, South America and Australia.

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