A night out on the town turned into a nightmare after an American woman was gang raped and beaten aboard a public transport van while her French boyfriend was handcuffed, hit with a crowbar and forced to watch the attacks, police said.
The incidents raise new questions about security in Rio, which has won kudos for its crackdown on once-endemic drug violence in preparation for hosting next year's football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
The city also will be playing host to World Youth Day, a Roman Catholic pilgrimage that will be attended by Pope Francis and is expected to draw some 2 million people in late July.
â€œThe victims described everything in great detail, mostly the sexual violence,â€ said police officer Rodrigo Brant. Three men aged 20 to 22 have been taken into custody in connection to the crime, which took place over six hours starting shortly after midnight Saturday, police said.
The suspects have been accused of at least one similar attack, with a young Brazilian woman having come forward to say that she too was raped by the same men in the van on March 23, the police said.
"The victims described everything in great detail, mostly the sexual violence," police officer Rodrigo Brant told the Globo TV network.
"Just how they described the facts was shocking _ the violence and brutality. It surprised even us, who work in security and are used to hearing such things."
A few minutes into the ride, the suspects forced the other passengers to get out of the van and then raped the female tourist inside the moving vehicle, police said.
The woman was also beaten across the face, and the man was handcuffed and beaten, at one point with a metal crowbar. More than 5,300 cases of sexual assault were reported in Brazil between January and June 2012, according to the country's Health Ministry.