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Another doctor, and his wife, arrested in genital mutilation case

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FBI agents leave the office of Dr. Fakhruddin Attar in Livonia, Mich., on Friday after completing a search for documents.
(Clarence Tabb Jr. / Associated Press)

Building on a case in which two girls were victims of genital mutilation, federal agents arrested a Michigan doctor and his wife Friday on allegations of helping to arrange the procedures.

Federal prosecutors say Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, offered the use of his medical clinic to Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, the Detroit emergency room doctor who was charged last week with carrying out the procedure on two 7-year-old girls.

In a complaint unsealed Friday charging the couple in the conspiracy, prosecutors offered new details about how they say the procedures were arranged and carried out.

To help set them up, the complaint said, Attar exchanged more than 50 phone calls with a Minnesota number in the four months leading up to the evening of Feb. 3, when surveillance cameras captured him, his wife and Nagarwala arriving at Burhani Medical Clinic in Livonia, Mich.

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At 6:25 p.m., a woman is seen entering the clinic with a young girl. Less than 20 minutes later, the pair emerges. Soon after, another woman and girl are seen going inside for 20 minutes.

The girls were brought to Detroit from Minnesota for a “special girls trip,” one of them told investigators. After arriving at a hotel, the girls were taken to the doctor “to get the germs out” because “our tummies hurt,” she said, according to court filings.

Both girls were instructed to keep what happened a secret, the complaint said.

One girl told authorities that she was given a pad to wear in her underwear. The other said that after the procedure she could barely walk and felt pain down to her ankle. Her parents told investigators that they took their daughter to Nagarwala for a “cleansing” of extra skin.

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Attar told authorities that he opens his medical clinic after hours five or six times a year, on Friday evenings or Saturdays, so that Nagarwala can see girls between the ages of 6 and 9 for “problems with their genitals,” including treatment of genital rashes.

He said his wife, 50-year-old Farida Attar, who works as the clinic’s office manager, stays in the examining room to hold their hands, according to court records.

Investigators identified other children who may have been cut at Attar’s clinic since 2005. “Multiple” girls in Michigan told authorities that Nagarwala performed procedures on their genitals.

In a phone call intercepted by the FBI, Farida Attar told one of the Michigan parents to deny to authorities that the procedures were taking place. The conversation was in Gujarati, a language spoken in western India.

International health authorities say female genital mutilation has been performed on more than 200 million girls, primarily in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In 1996, then-Sen. Harry Reid pushed for a law criminalizing the practice.

Carried out mostly on girls between infancy and age 15, the ritual is intended to reduce sexual pleasure and promiscuity and to prepare a girl for marriage. It may involve a partial or total removal of the clitoris, excision of the inner and outer folds of the vulva or the narrowing of the vaginal opening.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Shannon Smith, an attorney representing Nagarwala, said that the doctor removed the membrane from the girls’ vaginal parts as part of a custom practiced by a small sect of Indian Muslims known as the Dawoodi Bohra.

Bohra clergy have banned genital mutilation of young girls, according to Jonah Blank, author of “Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity Among the Daudi Bohras.”

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An organization representing the Dawoodi Bohra community in Detroit released a statement Friday saying that “any violation of U.S. law is counter to instructions to our community members.”

“We take our religion seriously but our culture is modern and forward-looking,” the statement said. “We are proud that women from our community have high levels of educational attainment and enjoy successful, professional careers.”

alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter @AleneTchek

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