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Tiger attack: Two Indians in US 'safe'

December 29, 2007 18:30 IST

The two Indian American brothers -- Amritpal Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, -- attacked by the Siberian tiger Tatiana on Christmas day are in stable condition, according to doctors at the San Francisco General Hospital.

The tiger killed their friend Carlos Sousa Jr. in the San Francisco Zoo.

The 4-year-old tiger went on a rampage during the closing time of the Zoo on Christmas day, killing Sousa and severely injuring Dhaliwals before the police shot the animal to death.

This was the biggest story in America till the death of Benazir Bhutto was reported. The police revealed the identity of Sousa later, but not that of the Dhaliwals. Media published their names yesterday. The family did not give permission to publish the names. But the media got it from the hospital and police sources.

When Sousa did not turn up for Christmas lunch, his father called his friends, including one of the Dhaliwals. The reply was that Sousa was not with him. But in fact they were going to the zoo then, a report in San Francisco Chronicle said.

Reporters went to the Dhaliwal family in San Jose, seeking responses. But they declined to speak.

The tiger first attacked Kulbir even as Amritpal and Sousa kept screaming. The tiger then released Kulbir and ran towards Sousa. The Dhaliwals ran to a café inside the zoo.

The tiger slashed Sousa's neck and then followed a trail of blood left by Kulbir about 300 yards to the cafe, where it mauled both men, the police said.

Four police officers arrived on the scene and spotted the tiger next to one of the brothers, according to police Chief Heather Fong. The victim yelled, "Help me! Help me!" and the animal again turned violent, Fong said.

The officers used their patrol car lights to distract the tiger, and it turned and began approaching them, leading all four to open fire, she said.

'My son was trying to distract the tiger and scare it away. My son was being brave. I'm proud of him,' Sous'as father said.

Sousa and Paul Dhaliwal were close friends and shared a love for music, especially hip-hop. They wanted to write music professionally, Sousa told the Chronicle.

The police said someone might have provoked the tiger.

Doctors said the Dhaliwals would make a full recovery, but that they would likely remain hospitalized for days.

Reports said the Dhaliwal brothers did not co-operate with the police by even refusing to give their names or identify Sousa initially.

Both Kulbir and Paul were charged two months ago with misdemeanour public intoxication and resisting a police officer after they were arrested a short distance from their home while apparently chasing two men.

The brothers pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to appear in court January 15.

Reports said that the zoo could face heavy fines from regulators. It could be hit with a huge lawsuit by the victims or their families.

The zoo is facing a lawsuit by zookeeper Lori Komejan, who was attacked last year when she fed the same tiger.

Legal experts said even if they provoked the tiger, it is not an excuse for the lack of security.

A Correspondent