DETROIT — Two more people are charged in Detroit in an investigation of alleged genital mutilation of young girls in a Muslim sect.

Prosecutors filed conspiracy and other charges against Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, the owner of a suburban Detroit clinic where the alleged procedures were performed in February on two girls from Minnesota. His wife, Farida Attar, was also arrested and charged April 21.

Investigators say the couple knew Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was performing genital mutilation at the Livonia clinic after business hours. Farida Attar is accused of assisting the Indian American doctor.

The Attars were scheduled to appear in court April 21. It's not known whether they have lawyers who could comment on the allegations.

Nagarwala had denied the allegations through her lawyer, Shannon Smith, April 17, insisting that she conducted a benign religious ritual for families of a Muslim sect.

Smith's defense of Nagarwala contradicted the government's position that the two 7-year-old Minnesota girls were forced to undergo a painful, bloody procedure at a Michigan clinic that left them with scars and lacerations on their genitals.

It's the first time someone has been charged with violating a U.S. ban on genital mutilation. (See India-West story here.)

Smith's explanation emerged during a hearing to determine whether Nagarwala would stay locked up without bond, following her arrest last week.

After hearing arguments, a judge said she was a threat to the public and refused to release her.

The Attars and Nagarwala belong to a sect called Dawoodi Bohra, a Muslim sect concentrated mostly in India, Smith said. Federal investigators have said the families of the Minnesota girls also belong to the sect.

The Bohras are an affluent community of about one million people concentrated mostly in Mumbai, India, but also seen across the U.S. and Europe. Within the sect, the practice of female circumcision remains a divisive issue, although supporters defend the ritual.

Smith partly blamed the allegations against Nagarwala on a "political divide" within the group's mosque in Oakland County, Michigan. She didn't elaborate.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub aggressively questioned the attorney, sometimes with a skeptical tone.

The World Health Organization said the practice of removing or injuring female genital organs has no known health benefits. Yet it has been performed on more than 200 million women and girls in 30 countries, according to the WHO.

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