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RIO DE JANEIRO — An American woman was raped by three men aboard a public van in a six-hour abduction over the weekend that began in the seaside district of Copacabana, the police said.

The attackers pummeled the woman’s face and tied up her male companion, a French citizen, then beat him with a metal bar as he witnessed the harrowing assault. The couple were forced to use bank cards to withdraw money from their accounts before the assailants finally freed them at a bus station on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

The assault stunned many in Brazil, especially as Rio tries to promote itself as a city on the mend and prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

“Everyone should be shocked by this horrendous crime,” said Aparecida Goncalves, the head of Brazil’s national office for combating violence against women. She said that reports of gang rape remained relatively rare in Rio and other parts of Brazil, but that cases of rape on public transportation including buses and subway cars remained a pressing issue in some large cities.

Two men were arrested, one of whom, the police said, confessed to the rape of the 21-year-old woman. The police said she had been in Brazil on a student visa. A third man was being sought in connection with the crime.

In addition to setting off calls for better policing, the assault led to comparisons in the Brazilian news media to recent episodes in India, including the fatal beating and rape in December of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in New Delhi, and the gang rape of a Swiss tourist in March in central India.

The number of female tourists to India has recently fallen more than 30 percent as fears over sex crimes in the country persist, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India said Monday.

The assault on the American woman here, police investigators said, began early Saturday, just after midnight, when the attackers forced other passengers out of the van, which picks up passengers along the street and can seat about a dozen people. The woman was raped by all three men, who took turns driving the vehicle, the police said. “It was a gang rape,” said Jayme da Costa Rosa Neto, a police official investigating the attack.

After the couple were freed about 6 a.m. Saturday and left at a bus station, the woman was taken to two public hospitals, Miguel Couto and Rocha Maia, for treatment including the administering of a cocktail of drugs containing the morning-after pill, to prevent pregnancy, and other medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.