Police in Delhi are questioning a group of homeless men accused of gang-raping and robbing a foreign tourist in one of the city’s most popular areas for backpackers.
It is the latest of a series of assaults on female travellers to the country.
Reports said a Danish woman was attacked on Tuesday night after she got lost close to the Delhi railway station and stopped to ask the men for directions to her hotel.
She told police that after being assaulted by the men at knifepoint, she managed to find her way back to Amax Hotel in the city’s Paharganj area and raised the alarm.
The hotel’s receptionist, Kuldeep Singh, told The Independent that the 51-year-old woman had been assaulted on her last day in the country and that she had already left for Denmark.
“She did not tell me at first but she told another lady what had happened. That was when I called the police,” he said. “That was my duty. She was our guest.”
The woman had been treated at a local hospital on Tuesday evening before being released and had given a statement to police in the presence of the Danish ambassador. She had arrived in Delhi on Monday having previously visited Agra.
The police said they had identified a number of suspects and were currently questioning them. Officers described them as “vagabonds” and said the woman had told them the attackers were mostly young men. The men had dragged the woman to the grounds of the Railway Officers Club near the city’s main railway station.
“She lost her way when this incident happened. Currently, the concerned police team has identified suspects and is interrogating them. The investigation is on,” Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told the AFP news agency.
Assaults on both Indian and foreign women have hit India’s image in recent years. A survey carried out following the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a Delhi student found that the number of women tourists coming to the country fell by 35 per cent.
The overwhelming majority of women attacked are Indians. Experts say that in the vast majority of cases the attackers are known to the women and may be neighbours or members of the extended family.
Attacks on foreign visitors are less common but receive widespread publicity.
The case comes several weeks after a Polish woman was allegedly drugged and raped by a taxi driver while travelling with her two-year-old daughter to Delhi.
A judge last month sentenced three Nepalese men to 20 years in jail for the gang-rape of a US tourist in June in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.
Six men were sentenced to life in prison last July for the gang-rape and robbery of a 39-year-old Swiss woman cyclist who had been holidaying in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
The rape and killing of the Indian physiotherapy student in December 2012 triggered widespread protests in India and sent shockwaves around the globe. The government responded by toughening laws for sexual offenders and establishing a set of fast-track courts for the suspects.
Six males were arrested after the attack. Four have been convicted and sentenced to death, one was found hanging in his prison cell while the sixth, who was aged 17 at the time of the attack, was treated as a juvenile and sentenced to three years in a young offenders’ institution.