Central Park hit by gang sex attacks

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A gang of young men rampaged through Central Park, New York, attacking and sexually assaulting four young women, among them a British and a French tourist.

A gang of young men rampaged through Central Park, New York, attacking and sexually assaulting four young women, among them a British and a French tourist.

The city's police department said two men were arrested soon after the incidents, which occurred in broad daylight at three different locations in the park on Sunday. "Police are seeking approximately 15 suspects," a spokeswoman for the department said.

The first incident, which evoked bad memories of past incidents of sexual attacks on women in the famous park, took place near to its southern edge in a popular area close to where tourist can take horse and carriage rides.

Two women aged 16 and 18 were allegedly doused with water, stripped of their clothes and sexually touched, the police said.

The other attacks occurred slightly higher in the park, but still close to the fashionable districts of the Upper East Side. One police official said that the male companion of the French woman was restrained by members of the gang, while others soaked and undressed her and then felt her sexually as he watched.

The arrests happened after one of the victims rode with police officers through the park in their car and spotted two men whom she was able to identify as members of the gang. All four victims were later taken to an area hospital for treatment for minor injuries before being released.

Many people in New York still remember an incident in April 1989 when a group of teenagers ambushed and raped a jogger in the park. A new word - "wilding" - was coined to describe the gang's running through the park in search of female prey.

Sunday's attacks came as New York is experiencing a sudden surge in violence after several years of plummeting crime statistics. Between Friday and Sunday, when the thermometer surpassed 30C, the city recorded some 30 slashing, stabbings and shootings, which left three people dead.

The increase in violent crime figures in recent weeks was symbolised most notably by the execution-style shooting of five workers in a New York Wendy's fast-food restaurant a fortnight ago.

Even so, the level of crime still remains far below what it was at its height, in 1990, when murders in the metropolis were being committed at the rate of six a day.

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