NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police said Monday (Jan 15) they were investigating the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls whose mutilated bodies were found just hours apart in a state bordering New Delhi.
The brutality of the crimes in Haryana, a deeply conservative state in northern India, has created shockwaves even in a region with a grim record of violence against women.
Police are pursuing a group of men suspected of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl from Kurukshetra district whose badly disfigured body was found dumped in a stream on Friday.
District police chief Abhishek Garg said the girl had sustained terrible internal injuries suggesting the attackers used a blunt object during the attack.
"At least four men are suspected to be behind the crime," said district police chief Abhishek Garg.
"A massive search is underway to arrest the perpetrators", he added.
Just hours after the grisly discovery, police in Panipat district on Saturday found the body of a 12-year-old girl in a pond.
Panipat police chief Rahul Sharma told AFP that two men, both neighbours of the victim, had been arrested over the crime.
Both had confessed to luring the girl to their house before raping and killing her, Mr Sharma said.
The crimes underscore India's atrocious record on sexual violence, which remains high despite authorities vowing to stamp out the scourge.
Official figures show nearly 36,000 minors were sexually assaulted in 2016. A UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2014 said one in three rape victims in India was a minor and expressed alarm over the widespread sexual abuse of children.
In a separate incident on Sunday, a 22-year-old woman was allegedly kidnapped and raped inside a car by four men in Haryana before being dumped by her attackers by a roadside.
The high rates of assault continue despite an overhaul of laws in the wake of a high-profile fatal gang rape of a Delhi student in 2012 that sparked mass protests.
That crime shone a spotlight on the rising levels of violence against women in India, and saw the introduction of tough penalties for offenders and accelerated trials through court.