Idaho Officials Rebut Story Of Refugee Gang Rape Hyped On Fringe News Sites

AP

Idaho officials on Monday dismissed reports making the rounds on far-right news sites that a group of Syrian refugees gang-raped a child at knife-point in the town of Twin Falls.

“There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape,” Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said Monday, according to the Idaho Statesman.

While Loebs told the newspaper that an incident did occur in the laundry room of the Fawnbrook Apartments, involving a 5-year-old female victim and three boys aged 7, 10, and 14, he said many of the details circulating about it were fiction.

World Net Daily, Drudge Report and InfoWars all reported that a group of Syrian refugees sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl at knife-point. Some versions of the story claimed that the attackers’ fathers cheered the assault and that city officials intentionally covered up the true version of events.

While details of the incident are sealed because the case involves juveniles, Loebs said that the boys, whose refugee status was not known but who are from Sudan and Iraq, were being held at a juvenile detention facility. There was neither a knife nor a gang rape involved in the incident, Loebs said, nor was there evidence that adults were involved in or approved of it.

The prosecutor said that only one of the boys did “touch the victim,” though he did not elaborate to the Statesman on what exactly happened.

He also rejected reports, like those on the Creeping Sharia blog, that accused police and city officials of a slow response to the initial 911 call about the incident and a failure to thoroughly investigate it.

“There have been periodic website postings about hundreds of Syrians coming to Idaho that have all proven to be false in the past, and this is probably just one of those attempts to try and stir up hatred and bigotry,” Loebs told the newspaper.

Reports about the incident were peppered with incorrect statistics about the number of refugees living in the southern Idaho community. InfoWars claimed that “50 Syrian ‘refugees’ are reportedly housed at the Fawnbrook site,” a number that far exceeds the total number living in the town.

According to the Statesman, no Syrians have been settled in Twin Falls County through Idaho refugee programs, and only a handful were receiving government benefits in 2015. The newspaper found that 11 Syrians were on food stamps in the county and eight were on Medicaid during that time period.

Loeb told the newspaper that a contingent of residents intentionally stoked anti-refugee sentiment to prevent resettlement in their community.

“There is a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees, and thus far they have not been constrained by the truth,” he said. “They have not been constrained by the truth in the past, and I don’t expect them to be constrained by the truth in the future.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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