Six people have been injured in an acid attack at the Stratford Centre shopping mall in east London.
The Metropolitan police arrested a 15-year-old boy at the busy Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre on Saturday night, and have launched a manhunt looking for other suspects.
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Three of the victims had to be rushed to hospital after being hit with the substance, during an apparent ‘altercation’ between two groups of males.
Horrified onlookers reported scenes of panic in the aftermath of the incident, which was first feared to be a series of random attacks.
One witness described seeing a young male victim screaming in pain as his friends shouted ‘it’s an acid attack, he’s burning!’, while others rushed to wash the substance from their skin.
The teenager was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm.
Scotland Yard said the altercation happened just before 8pm on Saturday evening: ‘During this incident a noxious substance was thrown. When the liquid was thrown, both groups ran from the scene.’
Witness Imran Tahir Rizvi said he overheard the friends of one victim, aged 18 or 19, shouting about an ‘acid attack’, then saw a young man lying on the floor screaming of a burning pain.
‘[They were] screaming and shouting for help as he was feeling a burning sensation on his skin,’ he said. ‘His fellows were shouting at police for something. Initially people thought like it was a fight. But the guys (with) the victim started shouting “it’s an acid attack, he’s burning”.’
He also shot a video, which showed a man sitting on the station floor ‘crying [and] shouting in pain’ while surrounded by paramedics.
A Burger King assistant manager who gave his name as Hossen, 28, said that he saw a victim and his friend, a known local homeless man, run in to the restaurant’s bathroom ‘to wash acid off his face’.
‘There were cuts around his eyes and he wa strying to chuck water into them,’ he said.
Members of the London Ambulance Service (LAS) hazardous area response team raced to the scene after the alarm was raised.
Paul Gibson, assistant director of operations for LAS, said teams arrived within 10 minutes of the first emergency call and provided first aid with help from the police and London Fire Brigade.
‘We treated six patients in total and took three to London hospitals,’ he said.
Scotland Yard said all the victims were male and inquiries are ongoing into the incident.
Ch Sup Ade Adelekan, Newham borough commander, said: ‘I would like to be very clear concerning this incident. What initially may have been perceived as a number of random attacks has, on closer inspection, been found to be one incident involving two groups of males.’
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