Times Wire Reports

Liberia's deputy ambassador to the U.S. said he tried to console an 8-year-old rape victim in Phoenix with hugs and a teddy bear in a case that has gripped Liberians worldwide.

Deputy Ambassador Edwin Sele said that the girl, a Liberian refugee, cried heavily during their meeting Saturday and that she needs to be reunited with her family because she feels being kept away from them is a punishment.

"I talked with her and I took her a teddy bear," he said. "She was very distressed, she's really traumatized. . . . She cried so bitterly that I almost cried."

Phoenix police allege that four boys, all Liberian refugees ages 9 to 14, lured the girl to a storage shed July 16, then restrained and raped her.

The case sparked an international outcry after police reported the girl's father said she brought shame on the family and he didn't want her back. Authorities said the comments prompted Child Protective Services to take custody of her.

Sele, who met with the girl's parents, said a language barrier had caused a misunderstanding.

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