Two girls aged just nine and six suffered a ‘horrific, catastrophic ordeal’ when they were sexually assaulted in Athlone on Saturday afternoon.

A man remains in custody and is being questioned about the assault.

Police believes he lured the two girls to a derelict house after telling them there was a little girl there who was ‘lonely’.

The paper also says that the man currently being questioned about the serious sex assault had only recently been released from prison.

The two girls were attending a children’s birthday party in Athlone and when were playing outside when they were tricked into going to a nearby building where they were both severely sexually assaulted.

The report says the man told the two little girls that the third girl was ‘lonely’ and wanted to play with them.

They followed him to a building where they were assaulted.

The girls eventually managed to escape through a rear exit of the building and made their way back to the birthday party.

The report says the traumatised children were rushed to hospital in Galway for emergency medical treatment.

A senior police source told the Irish Independent that the suspected attacker is known to police and was only recently released from prison. He had moved into the housing estate in Athlone where the alleged incident took place.

The man was living in rented accommodation with two other men. They were also taken in for questioning but were released on Monday morning.

A police source told the paper: “This is an extremely serious case and it is not an exaggeration to say that what happened to these innocent children is absolutely catastrophic. They endured an experience that is the stuff of every parent’s nightmare.

“The girls are deeply traumatised, and it will take a long time for them to recover from this horrific ordeal.”

The two girls are not from the Athlone area and were staying with relatives for the party.

A number of men went to the apartment to confront the alleged attacker. A fight had broken out when police arrived.

The source added: “The prompt arrival of the gardai (police) may have saved the accused man from being seriously assaulted, because understandably, people were horrified at what had happened and tempers were running high.

“There is enormous upset at what has happened. The children will be given every specialist care that is required, but this will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”