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5 charged in National Mall attacks

WASHINGTON -- US Park Police have charged five people in a string of violent attacks on tourists near national landmarks that had prompted a citywide crime emergency, authorities said yesterday.

The suspects, who were arrested over the past two weeks, are accused of taking part in five attacks on three nights in May and July. Authorities said they stole cellphones, cash, and other items from victims, and a 17-year-old said she was raped .

Working in groups of two or three, the suspects, officials said, chose dark spots at night on the heavily visited Mall, a broad expanse of grass and trees that stretches from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial .

Wielding a gun, they forced the victims to the ground before robbing them, authorities said. In several cases, women were groped, according to documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.

``These five young men targeted our National Mall as a hunting ground for victims," said Kenneth Wainstein, US attorney for the District of Columbia.

Park Police arrested Zachary Bright, 19; Ryan Newman Jr., 17; Trayvon Thomas, 18; Michael Bright, 16; and Marcus Brown, 22. All five are from Washington .

According to court documents, Thomas pleaded guilty Aug. 7 to charges that include sexual abuse for a rape on May 27, robbery and other offenses.

Officials said they believe they arrested all of those involved in the attacks. ``The Mall is safe," said Dwight Pettiford, park police chief.

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