Mumbai gang-rape suspects were feared in their slum home

Mumbai gang-rape suspects were feared in their slum home
Indian police officials escort a suspect (C), in the gang-rape of a female photographer.

MUMBAI - As Mumbai reels over the gang-rape of a young photographer in the heart of the city last week, angry neighbours of the arrested suspects describe a gang of jobless youths known for petty theft and drinking.

The five men are accused of repeatedly raping the 22-year-old woman and attacking her male colleague in an abandoned mill compound in central Mumbai, which was known as a haven for drink and drug addicts.

While smart neighbourhoods of luxury apartments, office blocks and malls are close to the scene of the crime, most of the accused gang members hailed from nearby slums where they earned themselves an unfavourable reputation.

"They were local criminals," said Ajit Pevekar, a 32-year-old neighbour and community worker.

The eldest suspect, 27-year-old Mohammed Salim Ansari, was the last to be arrested on Sunday in New Delhi after fleeing from his home in eastern Mumbai.

His four alleged accomplices, aged between 18 and 24 according to police, were from nearer the mill in slums surrounding Dhobi Ghat, a site famed as the world's largest outdoor laundry.

The men have not yet been formally charged and have not commented on the allegations against them.

Unlike the industrious washermen of Dhobi Ghat, three of the suspects known to Pevekar "had no regular work, were playing cards all the time, and all of them drank", he told AFP, adding that the men would regularly snatch people's chains or purses.

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