Confusion over India inquiry into rape of Swiss woman

Officer M L Dhondi from Datia District Police says the couple were robbed before the attack

An Indian police official has told BBC News there were no confessions over the gang rape of a Swiss tourist, contradicting earlier reports.

Several people are being questioned over the attack in Madhya Pradesh but no formal arrests have been made, Inspector General SM Azfal said.

He denied statements by junior officers that five men had confessed to involvement in the crime.

The woman was attacked as she camped with her husband in woodland.

The couple had stopped at a village in Datia district on Friday, while making a cycling trip.

A group of men overpowered her husband before gang-raping her. The couple were also robbed of their valuables.

Police reportedly detained at least 20 people after the attack.

The case is getting front-page coverage in the Indian media and the Swiss embassy has called for a swift investigation, the BBC's Andrew North reports from the capital, Delhi.

The incident comes three months after the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old female student on a bus in Delhi, which triggered widespread protests against the treatment of women in India.

'Husband beaten'

After the attack, the rape victim underwent a medical examination at a local hospital before leaving for Delhi with her husband, police said.

Another police official, DK Arya, told AP news agency the couple had said seven or eight men had taken part in the rape, but that it was dark and they could not be sure of the exact number.

The victim, who is reported to be 39 years old, and her husband had been cycling from Orchha to Agra, to see the Taj Mahal, a distance of about 250km (155 miles), when they decided to camp for the night in a forested area.

Map of Madhya Pradesh

One report cited the victim's husband as saying that the group of men had approached them at about 21:30 (16:00 GMT). They then began beating him with wooden sticks before tying him up and sexually assaulting his wife in front of him, he is reported to have added.

The assailants stole the couple's valuables, including 10,000 rupees ($185) and a laptop computer, before fleeing into the woods.

Police have reportedly recovered some belongings stolen from the couple after raiding nearby villages, and say they now have the names of other suspects.

A police spokeswoman, Renu Shukla, said those responsible would be arrested and brought to justice.

"The accused persons who are being rounded up will be questioned and the locals from around the area where the crime was committed will also be questioned," she told AFP news agency.

Conscious of the effect on India's international image - battered by the Delhi gang-rape - the authorities are under pressure to resolve this case quickly, our Delhi correspondent says.

Indian police are still regularly criticised for failing to take other alleged rape cases seriously, despite the outcry over the safety of women in recent months, he adds. They are also often accused of using rough tactics to secure confessions.

On Monday, one of the Delhi rape suspects was found dead in prison. Police said Ram Singh hanged himself, but his family suspect he was murdered.

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