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Men flee India village as outrage brews over gang-rape of woman ordered by tribal elders

NEW DELHI/SUBALPUR, India -- Male residents fled an Indian village Friday after the alleged gang-rape of a young woman on the orders of tribal elders as police told of how locals tried to prevent her from reporting her ordeal.

A total of 13 men have been arrested over the assault on the 20-year-old which was allegedly as punishment for “dishonoring” her community, a scattering of mud huts set amid palm trees and fields of rice and mustard.

Her ordeal on Tuesday night, when she was taken to a thatched shed and repeatedly assaulted for a relationship she was having with a Muslim man, has rekindled the outrage in India over the treatment of women.

Neighbours described the victim as a charming woman and said she planned to marry the Muslim companion.

Police near the village of Subalpur, about five hours drive from the state capital Kolkata, said that a mob had surrounded her house and threatened her with further violence if she spoke out.

“Members of the village council threatened her with dire consequences if she lodged a complaint with the police,” Kazi Mohammad Hossain, a senior officer at the district police station in Labphur, told AFP.

“The villagers surrounded her house but on Wednesday afternoon she managed to escape and came to the police station to file the complaint.

“She was limping and bleeding when she came to the police station,” he explained.

India's Supreme Court has ordered an investigation into the gang rape, Press Trust of India news agency said Friday.

The West Bengal state government on Friday transferred the top police official of the district for failing to follow proper procedures while arresting the suspects.

Most of the men had fled the village when AFP visited on Friday morning, leaving women and children who were reluctant to talk about the events of Tuesday night.

About a dozen policemen stood outside the small bamboo structure with a thatched roof where the crime allegedly took place. Neighbors said the structure was used by the village head as a kitchen.

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Balai Mandi, center, the village council chief of Subalpur, is led by police for a hearing in a gang-rape case at the district courthouse in Bolpur of Birdhum district, some 240 kilometers (149 miles) northwest of Kolkata on Friday, Jan. 24. (AFP)

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