Srinagar, India (CNN)Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the brutal rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl who fell victim to a family feud in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.
Five arrested over gang rape and murder of 9-year-old girl in India
The girl was gang raped, strangled, her head wounded with an ax and her eyes gouged out, police said in a statement.
The attack was carried out by the girl's 14-year-old stepbrother and two of his friends "in presence and at the instance of her stepmother" according to police, who said the violence was due to a family dispute.
The girl's father's remarriage had led to a feud between with his first and second wives, police said.
"The acrimonious atmosphere, primarily for the reason of (the) second marriage of (the father) had been building up in the family over a period of time," said the statement.
"The first wife...hence hatched a conspiracy to eliminate her step daughter," it added.
The girl's body was found near the town of Uri on September 2, in woods not far from her house, the statement added. She was reported missing by her father on August 23.
In April, the separate gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir inflamed religious tensions and sparked widespread protests, in a case that is threatening to further destabilize an already restive region.
The case was one of a series of brutal rape cases in India earlier this year shocked the country to its core, placing the issue of sexual violence firmly back on the national agenda.
The incidents, including two alleged unrelated attacks on girls aged 16 and eight, gave rise to protests comparable to the rallies that followed the highly-publicized gang rape of a female college student in Delhi in 2012.
In July, it emerged that an 11-year-old girl from Chennai was raped by 17 men who worked in the building she lived in.
In June, five female anti-trafficking activists were gang raped in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, police said Friday, the same region where two teens were raped and then set on fire the previous month.
In July, India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced a no-confidence vote in Parliament, brought about, in part, by the record number of rape cases.
Almost 39,000 women and children were reported to have been raped in 2016, according to the most recent figures from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). That's more than 100 a day, or one every 15 minutes.
The BJP remained untroubled by the parliamentary motion.