Indian police hunt truckers over US tourist gang-rape

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police investigating the gang-rape of a US tourist by a group of truckers said on Wednesday they had identified the type of vehicle used in the attack and collected forensic evidence.

The 30-year-old American hitched a lift in the truck Monday night in Manali, a tourist destination in the foothills of the Himalayas, after struggling to find a taxi to return to her hotel.

The driver and two accomplices then abducted her and took her to a secluded spot where they raped her for over an hour, she told police.

"She is recovering fast and helping us move forward with the investigation. She has given us details of how the men looked, what they were wearing, which will help us," senior police officer V.K. Dhawan said.

"She has identified the truck type. It is typically used to transport construction materials so we are checking construction sites to see which trucks were in use at that time," he added.

Police also have forensic evidence and have identified tyre marks from the site where the attack occurred, Dhawan added.

The incident follows the alleged rape of a 21-year-old Irish charity worker in the eastern city of Kolkata at the weekend and comes as India tries to fight widespread sex crime with tougher laws.

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

The woman, who cannot be identified under Indian law, is staying at a hotel under police protection in the Manali area, some 500 kilometres north of the capital New Delhi.

The victim told police she would meet US embassy officials later on Wednesday, Dhawan said.

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

A survey by an Indian trade body this year found the number of female tourists visiting the country had dropped by 35 percent following several sex attacks that made global headlines.

Measures passed by Indian lawmakers in March increased punishments for sex offenders to include the death penalty if a victim dies and a minimum 20-year prison sentence for gang-rape.

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