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March 17, 2013 at 8:35 AM
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Five admit to raping an India tourist

NEW DELHI, March 17 (UPI) -- Five men have allegedly admitted to raping a Swiss woman in central India, authorities said Sunday.

The woman and her husband arrived in India on Feb. 3 and were camping in India's Datia district when a group of men allegedly beat the husband and raped the woman, CNN reported.

The attackers also stole a laptop, $185 and a mobile phone, said D.K. Arya, deputy inspector general of police.

The couple went to police and the woman was hospitalized and later released. They are staying in Datia district while the investigation continues, Arya said.

Of the 20 people pulled in for questioning by police, five have confessed, Arya said Sunday.

Linus von Castelmur, the Swiss ambassador to India, said he had spoken with the couple and offered support.

"Their health and treatment is the priority of the moment," the ambassador said in a statement. "The embassy has also been in touch with the local authorities and has requested for swift investigation and for justice to be done."

The attack comes after an Indian woman was brutally gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi. She later died in Singapore while receiving medical treatment.

That incident prompted protests across India calling for stricter laws on sexual assault and changes in cultural attitudes toward women.

Top Syrian general defects with son

AMMAN, Jordan, March 17 (UPI) -- A Syrian army general who defected with his son this weekend said he coordinated the move with "different factors of the Syrian revolution."

In an exclusive interview with al-Arabiya, Brig.Gen. Mohammed Khalouf and his son Izza al-Din, a captain in the army, said their defection took a lot of planning.

"Preparations for my defection from the (Bashar) Assad regime started with coordinated planning with different factors of the Syrian revolution until it succeeded," Khalouf said in the broadcast from Jordan.

Kahlouf served as head of logistics and supply for the Syrian army and his son served in a reconnaissance unit, CNN said.

Sources told the pan-Arab channel that Khalouf's defection coincided with that of Haitham Humaidan, Syria's envoy to Chile.

Syrian rebels said they helped Khalouf and his family escape Damascus to Dara'a where they were handed over to Jordanian authorities at the border, CNN said.

There has been no official comment from Syria concerning Khalouf's defection.

Karzai gives U.S. more time for handover

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 17 (UPI) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai released a statement Sunday granting the United States an extra week to complete the handover of Bagram Prison.

The transfer of control of the prison has been a persistent source of tension between Afghanistan and the United States.

In a statement Wednesday, Karzai warned "any more delays could harm the bilateral relations."

However, a new statement from the presidential palace said Karzai has agreed with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's request for an extra week to complete the handover of the prison, Khaama Press reported Sunday.

"In a telephone conversation with President Karzai, U.S. defense secretary asked for a week time for a complete transfer of the Bagram Prison to Afghanistan sovereignty," the statement said. "President Karzai agreed with the new time request and reminded Secretary Hagel that the transfer has been delayed several times in the past and that this time the handover should take place."

A previous planned transfer of the prison was delayed because the two sides couldn't agree on the terms of the handover.

Karzai has said he plans to release some of the prisoners after the transfer while United States officials said they wanted to make sure no dangerous prisoners were released.

34 injured or killed in Iraq

BASRA, Iraq, March 17 (UPI) -- At least 30 people were killed or injured in two bombings in Basra, Iraq, Sunday and four other people were killed in a fire in Babel, officials said.

"About 30 citizens were killed and injured due to the bombing that took place in a garage in Garma Ali area of northern Basra province," a security official told IraqNews.com. "The second bombing that took place near the Social Security Directorate resulted in injuring two citizens in addition to material damages in the nearby buildings and shops."

A fire at the Hilla Educational Hospital in Babel killed four people, IraqNews.com reported.

A preliminary investigation indicated the cause was "an electrical shock," a hospital official said.

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