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Gang who attacked teenage asylum seeker may have been drinking in nearby pub

Detectives are probing whether a teenage asylum seeker who was left with a fractured skull and a blood clot on his brain in a "savage" attack was set upon by a gang who had been drinking in a nearby pub.

The 17-year-old, a Kurdish Iranian, is fighting for his life in hospital after being targeted by around eight people in what police are treating as a hate crime.

The boy was waiting at a bus stop with two friends outside The Goat pub in Croydon, south-east London, when the group approached them.

After discovering he was an asylum seeker, they chased after him and launched their attack, repeatedly kicking him on the floor and aiming blows to his head.

Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe, Croydon's borough commander, called it a "savage attack" and said it was only the intervention of passers-by and the arrival of police that stopped it being worse.

The attack has prompted a wave of condemnation, with Tory minister Gavin Barwell, Croydon Central's MP, describing the attackers as "scum".

Mr Boothe told the Press Association: "A number of bystanders and eyewitnesses tried to intervene and say to the attackers that enough is enough.

"By all accounts they didn't actually stop until the sound of police sirens were heard in the background."

The incident happened in Shrublands Avenue at 11.40pm on Friday.

The boy is in a critical condition while his two friends escaped with minor injuries, Scotland Yard said.

Officers believe some of those involved had been drinking in The Goat in Broom Road, Mr Boothe said.

The "close-knit community" has been left shocked by the ferocity of the attack, he added, and extra officers have been out and about to reassure people.

He said: "This is not usual for the area, it is out of the norm. This is not Croydon, Croydon is a very diverse community - they celebrate their diversity and as recently as Thursday at the town hall we had a number of leaders from different faith groups saying we are all united and stand together."

He added: "Hate crime is something which we understand can be very, very divisive. Croydon is culturally diverse and we need to continue to celebrate that.

"We are appealing to all decent people from whatever background they come from to help us identify the individuals that are involved in this isolated attack."

And in a direct message to the attackers, Mr Boothe said: "Hand yourselves in. It's only going to be a matter of time before we identify and locate them. We would ask them to do the decent thing and hand themselves in."

Mr Barwell denounced the attack, saying: "I think most people in Croydon will be as appalled as I am that what appears to have happened is a young man who came to this country seeking sanctuary has apparently been targeted because of his ethnic background.

"It's an appalling crime and I hope the people responsible are caught quickly and receive the full force of British justice."

He said Croydon generally had "very good relations between people of different backgrounds".

"This is completely out of character but that is no comfort to the individual who is fighting for his life now," he added.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott suggested the Conservatives had failed to get to grips with so-called hate crimes.

She said: "Sadly this is not an isolated incident but part of a sustained increase in hate crimes that this Tory Government is yet to offer any effective response to.

"With right-wing politicians across the world scapegoating migrants, refugees and others for their economic problems, we are seeing a deeply worrying rise in the politics of hate.

"We must make clear that there is no place for anti-foreigner myths, racism and hate in our society."

No arrests have been made and police are appealing for witnesses.

Detective Sergeant Kris Blamires said: "A number of people came to the aid of the victim as he lay unconscious and injured following the assault.

"The suspects are believed to have made off in the direction of The Goat pub, Broom Road, following the attack.

"All communities stand together against hate and we would ask anyone with any information to come forward immediately."

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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