California victim of India gang-rape identifies three suspects

By John Newland

Police in India on Thursday were preparing to charge three men detained in connection with the gang-rape of a 31-year-old California woman who hitched a ride in a truck in the early hours of Tuesday.

Investigators obtained a cellphone number believed to belong to the principal suspect and used it to track down the men, said B. Kamal Kumar, director of police in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.

“With the help of this number we check out the previous calls,” he said. “We contacted the previous numbers. It helped a lot in tracing the [suspects].”

Kumar said the victim identified all three men in a police lineup.

“Two of them were locals and our team of special police found them,” Kumar said. “The other fellow was trying to escape through a nearby town about 60 kilometers (37 miles) away. He was caught at a checkpoint.”

The victim, earlier said by police to have been between 35 and 40, had been visited by U.S. diplomatic officials and was “all right,” Kumar said.

It was unclear what city she was from or how long she had been in India when the attack occurred. The resort town of Manali, where she was staying, is known for its lush valleys and towering mountains.

After she was picked up in the truck, promised a ride to her hotel, she was driven to a remote area and gang-raped, police said.

The suspects will be taken in front of a magistrate to be officially identified and formally charged, Kumar said, adding that he expected that to happen Thursday afternoon.

The attack has drawn further international attention to the issue of serious sexual assaults in India.

Several other sex crimes in the country have been highly publicized, particularly the fatal December gang-rape of a 23-year-old student by six men on a bus in New Delhi.

That attack set off angry protests across the capital and in other cities.

Kumar said he would advise female tourists to use extreme caution when traveling in India.

“She has taken a lift in a truck at 1:15 at night,” he said, adding that she had been visiting friends and was on her way back to her hotel but could not find a taxi. “I’m warning all tourists who are coming here. She should have avoided the truck. If she wanted any help, she should seek police.”

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