US tourist gang-raped in northern India after hitching ride

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 12:35am


An American tourist was raped by a truck driver and two other men after hitching a ride in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, police said yesterday.

The incident follows the alleged rape of a 21-year-old Irish charity worker in Calcutta at the weekend and comes as the country attempts to tackle widespread sex crime with tougher rape laws.

"The 30-year-old was raped by men in a truck on Monday night," police inspector Abhimanyu Kumar said from Manali, a tourist destination in the foothills of the Himalayas. "They offered her a lift and she accepted it."

Mass protests erupted in the capital and other cities in December and January following the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi, a crime that brought simmering anger among women to the surface.

Kumar said medical tests confirmed the tourist was raped and police were hunting for the accused in the Manali area, some 500km from New Delhi.

"The woman cannot remember the number plate of the truck and she could not understand what the accused were talking about," Kumar said. "They drove the truck to an isolated spot and raped her for nearly one hour."

He said every truck driver in Manali had been ordered to report to local police.

The woman, who cannot be identified under Indian law, arrived in Manali on Monday and will stay on in the town, a destination popular with foreign backpackers, to help investigators, police said.

"She will have to identify the accused when they are arrested," said V.K. Dhawan, another senior police officer.

The woman was on holiday with three other Americans and was returning to her guest house alone after bathing at a hot water spring. The natural water spring, called "Vashist", is a tourist spot renowned for its temples and bathing tanks.

"The victim's friends wanted to spend more time at the spring but she was tired and decided to walk alone to the guest house," Dhawan said.

"It is a big challenge to trace the accused," he added.

More than 2,000 trucks a day ply the Manali highway, which connects the town with remote Himalayan villages.

Police put the woman in touch with US embassy officials in New Delhi.

"We are in contact with authorities but due to issues of privacy we have no further comment," a US embassy spokesperson said.

A survey by a trade body earlier this year found that the number of foreign female tourists visiting India had dropped by 35 per cent following several sex attacks in the country that have made global headlines.