Austria Reacts With Shock and Disbelief

The girls, ages 7, 11 and 13 when their ordeal began, had been isolated for so long in a dark filthy room in the city of Linz that they developed their own language. When they were eventually freed, they had problems coping with the sunlight.

"The nation has hardly digested the notorious kidnapping of Austrian schoolgirl Natascha Kampusch, who was hidden by her kidnapper in a windowless cell for over eight years until she escaped in April 2006, when another dramatic case if shaking the nation — as if the entire country is under a curse," wrote the German newspaper Die Zeit.

These cases have prompted the Austrian newspaper Der Standard to demand that "the whole country should ask if there's something wrong with our society."

There's a lot of soul-searching under way and there seem to be no easy answers.

"Amstetten is in a state of shock," wrote Mayor Herbert Katzengruber on the city's Web site. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims."

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