A female tourist from Switzerland has reportedly been gang-raped in rural India while on a cycling trip with her husband.
Police in the Madhya Pradesh state in central India say a group of seven or eight men armed with sticks attacked the couple on late on March 15, tying up the man and gang-raping the 39-year-old woman in his presence.
The attackers also stole money, a laptop computer, and a mobile phone from the couple, who had stopped to camp in a village while cycling from the town of Orchha to the Taj Mahal monument in Agra.
"A foreign couple was on their way back from Orchha on a bicycle and decided to camp in the forest," a local police officer said. "Some unidentified men beat them up and took away their laptop. We have sent them for a medical examination."
Police say the woman was conscious after the attack and has been admitted to hospital. Neither she nor her husband has reportedly suffered major injuries.
More than a dozen men have been detained and questioned in connection with the attack. Indian television showed scores of police searching the forest where the assault occurred.
The attack comes after December's fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old female medical student on a bus in New Delhi.
Since then, thousands of Indians have staged public demonstrations to protest the country's pervasive culture of violence against women.
Mamata Sharma, the head of India's National Commission for Women, said on March 16 that the impoverished region of Madhya Pradesh was notorious for attacks on women and that the reported assault on a foreigner was cause for special alarm.
"The government should pay attention to what is happening with the foreigners. I am saying this for the past few days, that the crime against women in Madhya Pradesh is increasing and the government should take stringent action to put an end to such incidents," Sharma said.
"Many incidents of violence against women have come to the limelight in Madhya Pradesh but the government is completely insensitive to them. The accused should be punished and we should see that what kind of image of India we are presenting to the outside world. The government should take strict action."
The Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was "deeply shocked" by the incident.
It said Swiss diplomats in India were in contact with local authorities and expressed hope the attackers would be "swiftly identified" and brought to court "to answer for their actions."
With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa