More than two dozen people may have participated in an attack on a 17-year-old Iranian asylum-seeker in south London, leaving him hospitalized with severe injuries, authorities said.
The suspected hate crime on Friday night led to charges against seven people on Monday after authorities arrested 16 people, London’s Metropolitan Police Service announced.
The group reportedly chased and beat Reker Ahmed, who is Kurdish-Iranian, as he was waiting at a bus stop in Croydon with two friends, police said.
“It is understood that the suspects asked the victim where he was from and when they established that he was an asylum-seeker they chased him and launched a brutal attack,” Detective Inspector Gary Castle said in a release on Monday.
Ahmed suffered a fractured spine, fractured skull and bleeding brain, the BBC reported. His friends were able to escape the attack and suffered only minor injuries, police said.
Authorities expect the number of arrests to grow, according to Detective Superintendent Jane Corrigan.
“We estimate that somewhere in the region of 20 to 30 people were involved in some way or other and it is possible that with confidence in numbers and fueled by alcohol this partly caused so many to get involved,” Corrigan said in a statement.
Corrigan added that Ahmed remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition.
“Thankfully we anticipate that he will recover from injuries but this horrific incident will no doubt have a lasting impact on him,” she said.
The suspected attackers range in age from 15 to 26 years of age, and include two pairs of siblings, the BBC reported, citing law enforcement.
Police said that Ahmed did not know his attackers. Authorities have released images of two people they are still working to identify and speak with.
The attack came as Britain prepares to break away from the European Union following last summer’s stunning Brexit vote, which for many voters was motivated by concerns about immigration.
Immediately after the vote, racist and xenophobic incidents skyrocketed, according to police and Muslim groups.