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Sri Lanka police investigate attack on teenage girls

[BBC, Wednesday, 29 June 2011 06:46 No Comment]

Sri Lankan police are investigating an assault on two girls apparently accused of watching pornography in the east of the country last week.

A group of men allegedly beat up the 17-year-olds after they came out of an internet cafe in the mostly Muslim town of Kattankudi, near Batticaloa.

The father of one of the girls says they were accused of watching pornography – a charge the girls deny.

The case has fuelled concern about a rise in radical Islam in that area.

An incident of this sort is extremely unusual for Sri Lanka.

‘Taken to hospital’

Mohammad Yusuf Abdul Razak told the BBC the men forcefully took his daughter and another girl to a local house and beat them up, before taking them to a local Islamic office.

"After that, an announcement was made from a mosque using loudspeakers that two girls who were caught doing wrongful things are now in the office complex," Mr Razak said.

After hearing this announcement, Mr Razak says, a large crowd gathered there and some started to denounce the girls.

Police finally intervened and the girls were taken to hospital for treatment for their injuries, he said.

Md Ibrahim Md Subir, from the local mosque authorities, denies that any announcement was made, saying the girls were kept in the office and "interrogated", but were treated respectfully.

But, he said, "a little later some youngsters barged in and a big crowd gathered".

He said the situation got out of control, so they called the police.

Sri Lankan police conducted an identification parade on Tuesday, where one female suspect was identified and later released on bail.

The police have said they are looking for others who are involved in the incident.

Mr Razak said he wants the mosque authorities to make a public announcement stating that the girls did not commit any wrongdoing.

He says that the police investigation of the internet cafe found no evidence to support the claim that the girls watched pornography.

"My child has physically recovered from injuries. But she is mentally shattered," Mr Razak said.

Analysts say that in recent years local women have come under growing pressure from conservatives.

They are now urged, for example, to cover their faces in public, something that had not previously been the cultural practice there.

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