Updated at 11 a.m. ET
Assailants riding a moped carried out a series of acid attacks in London overnight leaving several people with facial burns, including one victim with what police described as “life-changing” injuries. Authorities announced two arrests in the case.
Metropolitan Police said there were five attacks late Thursday across a large section of east London over about a 90-minute period. The assailants are also suspects in the theft of at least one motorbike, linked to one of the attacks.
According to Reuters:
“Two assailants on a moped pulled up alongside a 32-year-old man in the Hackney area of east London [9:24 p.m. local time] on Thursday and threw acid in his face before one of the pair made off with the victim’s moped.
“In the next hour and a half, three other men across Hackney and one in the [neighboring] borough of Islington had corrosive substances hurled at them, police said.”
Police said two boys, aged 15 and 16, were arrested in connection with the attacks and charged with robbery and grievous bodily harm. The Associated Press reports, “One was arrested near the scene of the attack and the other at an address in east London on Friday.”
The BBC quotes Hackney resident Jon Moody as saying that he was watching television and then suddenly heard screaming outside.
“I heard a high-pitched scream but thought it was the boys playing football… I heard more shouting and ran to my window,” Moody said, according to BBC. “I could see a man in serious distress, he was screaming in pain.”
The Evening Standard newspaper reports that nearly 1,500 acid attacks were reported in London in the past six years.
Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick, speaking in a radio interview, condemned the attacks as “barbaric” and described the injuries that result from them as “horrendous.”
“It’s a new trend in this country,” she told LBC. “I don’t want people to think that this is happening all over London all of the time — it’s really not, but we are concerned because the numbers appear to be going up.”