by Stefania Fumo
ROME, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- A man and three teenagers are under arrest in Italy for the gang rapes of a Polish woman and a Peruvian transsexual that took place in the seaside resort of Rimini on the night of Aug. 25.
The brutal attacks have shocked the nation and sparked condemnation of the government's immigration policy, because the four suspects are from Africa and one is an asylum seeker.
A 20-year-old Congolese national named as Guerlin Butungu, a 16-year-old Nigerian boy and two Moroccan brothers aged 15 and 17 are detained on suspicion of the violent attacks that took place on a beach and in a park in the town on the Adriatic coast of the Marche region.
They face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the charges, which include aggravated assault, gang rape, and robbery, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
Poland on Monday requested their extradition for the assault on the Polish tourist couple, in which the four beat up the man and raped the woman, shortly before attacking the Peruvian victim.
In a televised interview at the weekend, in which she didn't show her face, the Peruvian transsexual described her attackers as "vicious."
Police credited the Peruvian victim's detailed testimony for giving them the leads that eventually led to the arrest of the entire gang within a week of the attacks.
Butungu, who was captured Sunday on a train in an apparent attempt to flee, reportedly denied taking part in the attacks but admitted recognizing himself in street camera footage showing the four on the night of the attacks.
The Moroccan brothers, who turned themselves in last Saturday and helped police locate the other two gang members, have reportedly stated Butungu coerced them into participating in the rapes.
Butungu, who arrived in Italy in 2015 after being rescued at sea, has no criminal record and spent time in a refugee reception center in the northern city of Pesaro, where he told operators he had been tortured in his native Congo and that he had no remaining relatives, according to ANSA.
The three underage boys, however, were known to police for stealing scooters, bikes, and cell phones. The brothers' father, who is under house arrest, urged them to turn themselves in.
In a televised interview posted on Corriere della Sera's website, the boys' father blamed the Congolese man for inciting them to commit the rapes.
"They have stolen cigarettes and money, but the Congolese man is the one who took the girl to the beach," the father said. "I told them they must turn themselves in to police and tell the truth."
The incident has sparked a wave of racist slurs on social media. The rightwing mayor of the village of Pontivrea in the northeastern Liguria region, Matteo Camiciottoli, suggested on Facebook that Butungu should be placed under house arrest at the home of Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini, a defender of refugee rights, implying that she also could be raped.
The mayor blamed "uncontrolled immigration" for bringing "beasts like this into our country".
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti called Boldrini to firmly condemn the village mayor's words, and urged on the local prefect to "focus maximum attention on the incident", ANSA reported.