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By Jatindra Dash

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Police on Monday widened an investigation to include the possible murder of a girl at a shelter in eastern India, where 29 young girls were allegedly raped and tortured.

Police in Bihar state carried out a dig at the home, Seva Sankalp Samiti, which was run by a local non-profit organisation, after some of the girls who used to live there alleged that a girl had been murdered.

"During the recording of their statements, 2-3 girls said that one girl was murdered and to verify that we did the digging today, but we did not find any thing so far," Muzaffarpur district police chief Harpreet Kaur told Reuters.

The home in Muzaffarpur, about 375 kms (233 miles) from state capital Ranchi, has been shut since last month, after police arrested 10 people.

Kaur said several girls had told a team from a social sciences institute that they had been beaten up in the shelter.

The ten were arrested on June 1 after preliminary investigations confirmed both sexual and physical abuse, authorities said.

All but two of 44 girls were medically examined and 29 of them were found to be victims of sexual assault, the police said. All of them have since been moved for their safety. Almost all are under 12.

"The medical reports of 29 girls do not rule out the possibility of sexual contact," Kaur said.

More than 100 cases of women being raped were reported daily in India in 2016, according to the latest available government data, and it has been tightening its rape laws.

It introduced the death penalty this year for those raping girls under 12.

(Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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Reuters