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Five villagers have confessed to gang-raping a Swiss tourist in central India, police said Sunday, in an incident that has renewed focus on the rampant violence against women in the country.
The woman was on a cycling holiday with her husband in the impoverished Madhya Pradesh state when six men attacked the couple on Friday night, sexually assaulting the woman in front of her husband and robbing the pair, police said.
"We have detained five men and they have confessed to gang-raping the woman and attacking her husband," local police official M.S. Dhodee told AFP.
The five men, who eke out a living as small-scale farmers, have been arrested on charges of rape and robbery, Dhodee said.
Police are searching for a sixth man, who was also involved in the crime, he said.
The alleged rapists live in a village near the forested area where the couple had stopped to camp for the night, while on a cycling trip to the popular tourist destination of Agra in northern India, Dhodee said.
"They were passing by, noticed the couple putting up their tent and saw an opportunity to attack and rape the woman," he said. Her husband was tied up during the attack.
They also stole a laptop, a mobile phone and 10,000 rupees ($185) from the couple, which the police are trying to recover, added Dhodee.
After the attack, the rape victim, aged about 40, and her husband, reported to be around 30, stopped a motorcyclist who took them to the nearest police station, said SonntagsBlick, a Swiss German-language newspaper.
She underwent a medical examination at a local hospital before leaving for the Indian capital Delhi, police said.
"The victim and her husband have left for Delhi, since there was no need for her to stay in hospital here," another local police official U.C. Shadangi told AFP.
Shadangi said that police were in touch with Swiss embassy officials, who declined to comment to AFP about the case.
The Swiss foreign ministry in Bern released a statement on Saturday expressing deep shock at the "tragic incident".
The couple arrived in Mumbai last month after visiting Iran and began a cycling holiday across India, making their way to Orchha, a popular foreign tourist haunt in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, Shadangi said.
The attack comes just three months after thousands took to the streets in nationwide protests following the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi.
The victim, a physiotherapy student died from internal injuries after being savagely assaulted by six men. One of her alleged attackers was found dead in his prison cell in New Delhi on Monday.
Police suspect he hanged himself, but his family says he was murdered. The government has since opened an investigation into his death.
India's government is facing heavy pressure to step up efforts to protect women after the deadly gang-rape in the capital last December.
Under a new bill approved by India's cabinet last week, rapists face a minimum 20-year jail term and the death penalty if the victim dies from injuries or is left in a persistent vegetative state.