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Indian police arrest three over US tourist gang-rape

SHIMLA: Indian police arrested three Nepalese truckers yesterday over the gang-rape of a US tourist who was attacked after she hitched a ride late at night, officers said. The 30-year-old American accepted a lift in a truck on Monday night in Manali, a tourist destination in the foothills of the Himalayas, after struggling to find a taxi to return to her hotel.

The latest assault comes as India faces intense scrutiny over its efforts to curb violence against women, following the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi last December which sparked violent protests. “Three men have been arrested in connection with the rape,” Vinod Dhawan, police chief of Kullu district in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh where the incident happened said.

The men, all aged in their 20s and from Nepal, were being interrogated by police and their truck has been seized, a police statement said. Two were arrested in the resort town of Manali where they were living, while the third was seized as he tried to leave the district. The owner of the truck told police he had hired one of those arrested, a 22-year-old named Arjun, as a driver just four to five days earlier, the statement said.

The American told police the truck driver and two accomplices took her to a secluded spot where they raped her for over an hour. She gave police a description of the men and also identified the truck model, which is commonly used to transport construction materials in the state. Police said a team has gathered forensic evidence from the seized truck which has been sent for analysis. The investigation was continuing with personal items stolen from the women not yet recovered, the statement said.

The three, identified as Arjun, 22, Lakki, 24, and Som Bahadur Tamang, 24, will appear before a court for remand, it said. The woman, who cannot be identified under Indian law, is staying under police protection at a hotel in the Manali area, some 500 kilometers north of the capital New Delhi. The incident follows the alleged rape of a 21-year-old Irish charity worker in the eastern city of Kolkata at the weekend, and comes as India tries to fight widespread sex crime with tougher laws. Mass protests erupted across India in December and January following the fatal gang-rape of the student in New Delhi, a crime which brought simmering anger about the treatment of women in India to the surface. A survey by an Indian trade body this year found the number of female tourists visiting the country had dropped by 35 percent following several sex attacks that made global headlines.

Measures passed by lawmakers in March increased punishments for sex offenders to include the death penalty if a victim dies and a minimum 20-year prison sentence for gang-rape. But the new laws did not go far enough to tackle gender inequality or protect women, a UN special envoy said last month. A Swiss cyclist was gangraped in front of her husband in the central state of Madhya Pradesh in March after the couple pitched a tent in a secluded forest area. — AFP

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This article was published on 07/06/2013