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India charges six suspects with murder after victim of horrific gang rape dies

A 23-year-old medical student who was raped and attacked on a city bus in New Delhi has died, resulting in charges against six men. Even before she died, her savage attack triggered mass protests about treatment of women. NBC's Duncan Golestani reports.

NEW DELHI -- Six suspects held in connection with the rape of a woman in India have been charged with murder after she died on Saturday of injuries sustained in the attack, police said.

"They have been charged (with murder)," said Rajan Bhagat, a spokesman for New Delhi police.

The woman, who was gang-raped on a New Delhi bus on December 16, died in a hospital in Singapore. The attack has sparked protests and a national debate about violence against women.

The suspects in the rape -- five men aged between 20 and 40, and a juvenile -- were arrested within hours of the attack.

Many Indians have called for the death penalty for those responsible.

Rafiq Maqbool / AP

Indians hold placards during a gathering to mourn the death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim in Mumbai, India, on Saturday.

India gang-rape victim dies in hospital; case focused attention on sexual violence

Bracing for a new wave of protests, Indian authorities closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in the heart of New Delhi, where demonstrators have converged since the attack to demand improved women's rights. About 100 people staged a peaceful protest on Saturday morning.

The 23-year-old medical student, severely beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday for specialist treatment.

Her body arrived back in India in the early hours of Sunday morning and cremation services almost immediately began, police sources told the Agence France-Presse.

The attack has sparked an intense national debate for the first time about the treatment of women and attitudes toward sex crimes in a country where most rapes go unreported, many offenders go unpunished and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists.

"We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4:45 a.m. on Dec 29, 2012 (3:45 p.m. ET Friday). Her family and officials from the High Commission (embassy) of India were by her side," Mount Elizabeth Hospital Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Loh said in a statement.

The 23-year-old who was gang-raped in New Delhi and thrown from a bus has died from her injuries in Singapore, where she was being treated. NBC's Natalie Morales reports.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was deeply saddened by the death and described the emotions associated with her case as "perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change.

"It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelize these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action," Singh said in a statement.

The woman, who has not been identified, and a male friend were returning home from the cinema by bus on the evening of December 16 when, media reports say, six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. The male friend survived the attack.

Body to be returned home
T.C.A. Raghavan, the Indian high commissioner to Singapore, told reporters hours after the woman's death that a chartered aircraft would fly her body back to India on Saturday, along with members of her family. The woman's body had earlier been put into a van at the hospital and driven away.

PhotoBlog: Police try to temper outrage over gang rape

Indian media had also accused the government of sending her to Singapore to minimize any backlash in the event of her death but Raghavan said it had been a medical decision intended to ensure she got the best treatment.

"She was unconscious throughout," Raghavan said of her time in Singapore. "She died because of the severe nature of the injuries."

Some Indian medical experts had questioned the decision to fly the woman to Singapore, calling it a risky maneuver given the severity of her injuries. They had said she was already receiving the best possible care in India.

On Friday, the Singapore hospital had said the woman's condition had taken a turn for the worse and she had suffered "significant brain injury." She had already undergone three abdominal operations before arriving in Singapore.

Ajit Solanki / AP

Indian schoolgirls hold placards during a prayer ceremony to mourn the death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim, at a school in Ahmadabad, India, on Saturday.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told Times Now television on Saturday the government was committed to ensuring "the severest possible punishment to all the accused at the earliest."

"It will not go in vain. We will give maximum punishment to the culprits. Not only to this, but in future also. This one incident has given a greater lesson," Shinde said.

He said earlier the government was considering the death penalty for rape in very rare cases. Murder carries the death penalty.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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