The widely circulated story that three young Syrian refugees raped a 5-year-old girl at knifepoint in Idaho has reportedly just been debunked by authorities who say the story was spread only to fuel anti-refugee sentiment.
According to the Idaho Statesman, on June 2, a group of Syrian refugee boys between the ages of 7 and 14 allegedly sexually assaulted a mentally disabled girl in the laundry room of a low-income housing complex in Twin Falls, Idaho. Once the story went viral, anti-Muslim and conservative blogs reported that the boys' parents congratulated them for committing the assault and that city officials tried to cover up the story.
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs denied all accusations regarding the case.
"There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape," he said on June 20, the Idaho Statesman reports.
An incident reportedly did occur involving three young boys but little information has been released as the case involves minors. According to KTVB, a sexual assault is being investigated, but no knife was involved. Loebs said only one boy touched the victim but refused to elaborate further. The young male suspects reportedly entered the U.S. less than two years ago, but their status as Muslims and as refugees have not yet been confirmed. None of them have a Syrian background and are actually from Iraq and Sudan.
Some members of the Twin Falls community question why the authorities have not released more information about the case.
“I think that there’s a method of cover-up here in the community,” community member Terrence Edwards told Magic Valley, a local paper. “I think it starts with the police department. I think they have their mouth zipped closed.”
Edwards added that if the police refuse to take action, there could be major consequences.
“ISIS is here," he said. "The Muslim Brotherhood is here. There’s been violations already occurred by Muslims here.”
No Syrian refugees have been resettled in Twin Falls, but the community has been in a heated debate over the refugee movement since 2015, the Idaho Statesman reports.
Zeze Rwasama, director of the CSI Refugee Center, is worried that these allegations and the spread of misinformation could possibly tear apart the community.
“I think the community has seen a lot of negativity around the refugee programs,” Rwasama told the Idaho Statesman. “Speculations are things that can destroy the entire community."