Six arrested in northern India over alleged rape and murder of teens

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Police in northern India have arrested six people in connection with the alleged rape and murder of two girls from a lower-caste community who were found hanging from a tree, local officials said on Thursday.

The bodies of the two girls, aged 15 and 17, were found in the Lakhimpur Kheri district of India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, local police said.

"Four of the accused lured the girls to a field and raped them," local police official Sanjeev Suman told reporters.

A detailed investigation is still pending into the incident, Suman said, adding that from preliminary inquiries it appeared that the girls were strangled with a scarf and hung from a tree after they were raped.

Violence against women, especially those from lower castes, is endemic in India, where several still follow an ancient caste system.

The victims' families told police the two girls were abducted by the men on motorcycles, raped and later murdered, local media reported. Reuters was unable to contact the families.

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak said the government would act to ensure justice for the victims' families.

"Our government takes incidents like this very seriously. We will take the strictest action in accordance with laws," he told Reuters partner ANI.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; Editing by Edmund Klamann)