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India arrests four over New Year attack on woman in tech hub

By Aby Jose Koilparambil and Brijesh Patel

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian police have arrested four men accused of attacking a woman in the technology hub city of Bengaluru on New Year's Day, a case that has sparked a national debate about women's safety.

Police made the arrests after examining closed-circuit camera footage of the attack as the woman walked down a secluded lane in a residential area in the early hours of Jan. 1, police commissioner Praveen Sood told reporters on Thursday.

He said the attack by two men as bystanders watched had been planned by six men including the four arrested, aged between 19 and 24, who face charges including sexual harassment and assault.

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"It was a clear case of molestation and groping," Sood said, adding that the men had been "stalking ... the victim for a few days". Police are in contact with the woman, he said.

The video footage, which has been greeted with outrage in India, shows a man dismounting from a scooter to grab the woman and drag her toward the vehicle as she struggles. The other man on the scooter briefly joins the scuffle as bystanders watch.

The woman is then thrown to the ground before the men ride off.

News of the attack came after a Reuters witness and media said several women revelers were groped and assaulted by a mob in a separate incident in the city's central business district on New Year's Eve.

Regarding that incident, Sood said police had examined recordings from 45-60 closed-circuit cameras in the area but had found no evidence to support molestation charges, although cases have still been opened based on media reports.

Bengaluru, in India's southern state of Karnataka, is home to many well-educated professionals, and has widely been viewed as safer for women than New Delhi, which is often labeled the country's rape capital for the many sex crimes reported there.

Sex crimes are common in India, with more than 34,000 rapes reported in 2015, figures from the National Crime Record Bureau show.

Authorities often face criticism for not doing enough to address a weak system of law enforcement and policing that leaves women vulnerable.

In a bid to improve safety, the Karnataka state government also announced plans to install nearly 550 more closed-circuit cameras within two months, increase police call-centre facilities and deploy more women police officers.

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil, Brijesh Patel, Aditya Kalra and Malini Menon; Writing by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Catherine Evans)

 
 
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