Five men were attacked with acid in London Thursday night, with one suffering life-changing facial injuries in what authorities categorized as linked assaults.
The five attacks, reported to police over a 70-minute period, are the latest in a surge of attacks in which corrosive liquids were used as weapons in robberies and gang-related violence in London.
According to police, two boys, aged 15 and 16, were arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and robbery, and taken into custody.
Four of the attacks occurred in the eastern borough of Hackney, the fifth in Islington, in the city’s north. All five victims were transported to the hospital.
According to a March report released by the Metropolitan Police Service, acid attacks are on the rise in London. In 2014, 166 incidents were filed, followed by 261 in 2015, and 454 in 2016. Police report that the upward trend is continuing in 2017.
Simon Laurence, chief superintendent for Hackney borough in east London where most of the acid attacks have occurred, urged retailers to question youths purchasing household chemicals that could potentially be used in attacks.
“It’s drain cleaner, oven cleaner, ammonia — different types of household products which can be bought. My plea is to sellers to have moral responsibility, social responsibility, to ask the questions,” Laurence told CNN in an interview.
London’s police chief, Cressida Dick, said that police were concerned by the surge in the number of acid attacks, which she called “completely barbaric.”
“We will arrest people. We will enforce the law as we can. We are working very closely with the Home Office to try to see whether there’s any changes in the law required,” Dick told LBC Radio.
In an interview with the BBC, Sarah Newton, an official from the Home Office, said that tighter restrictions on acids and tougher penalties for their misuse were being considered.
“I and my colleagues in the Home Office have been increasingly concerned about the escalation of instances — especially in London. So, we’ve been working with the Metropolitan Police and community policing some months now,” Newton said.
At the request of MP Stephen Timms from the Labour party, parliament has scheduled a debate regarding the issue on Monday.
“Too many people are frightened of becoming a victim. Ministers need to act,” said Timms in a statement prior to the Thursday assaults.
According to Dennis Michael Lynch, ever since Mayor Khan took over London it’s become a more dangerous place. DML: “The guy is over his head, and people in London are getting hurt as a result.”
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