Suspicious, photo-taking "Middle Eastern" men were visually impaired tourists

A leaked Vancouver internal police bulletin sent the city into a tizz when they learned that the cops were trying to locate three "Middle-Eastern" men who'd been taking a suspicious amount of photographs of a shopping mall.

The leak also included photos of the men.

One of the men, Mohammed Sharaz, was shocked to recognise himself, his son, and a friend in the photos. The three men are from Manchester, England, and had travelled to Canada for medical treatment. Sharaz's son and his friend have visual impairments. Sharaz had given his son a camera he could use on their trip to Canada to help remember the journey, while their friend has a visual disability that means he can't see things straight on (which sounds like macular degeneration, though the article doesn't specify it), so he takes photos of things and looks at them to get a better sense of what he's seeing.

The breathless report of the leak in the Vancity Buzz sparked a lot of Internet Tough Guy posturing on social media, and has frightened the three tourists into staying away from all public places while in town, for fear of vigilante violence.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Vancity Buzz editor in chief Farhan Mohamed said his team published the story because it was in the public interest.

"I don't think it's fear-mongering. I think we're just being factual that this is happening and this could be something," he said.

The publication received a tip, and confirmed the information with police, who did not ask them to stifle the story, Mohamed said.

"I understand the gravity of the situation and investigations," he said. "And had it been a situation where they said, 'This is an ongoing investigation, nothing that we want out yet, can you please not run it' then we wouldn't have run it."

Mohammed Sharaz reveals why his group took photos that aroused Vancouver suspicions
[Canadian Press/CBC]