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London acid attacks: police arrest two teenagers

Two teenagers allegedly went on a 90-minute rampage attacking moped riders with acid and stealing their bikes. The case, and earlier ones like it, have prompted calls to limit the sale of corrosive substances.

British police arrested two teenagers on Friday after a string of acid attacks in London.

On Saturday, police said they had charged a 16-year-old boy with robbery, possession of an item to discharge a noxious substance, and grievous bodily harm (GBH). The teenager has been remanded in custody and is to appear before Stratford Youth Court in east London on Monday. Another teenager was released on bail. 

Across 90 minutes in the city's east, five moped riders were splashed in the face with acid, causing horrific injury in at least one case.

In the first incident, two assailants on a moped in Hackney stopped next to a 32-year-old man and threw acid in his face before one of them stole the victim's moped.

Read more: Police in London probe five acid attacks in 90 minutes

Over the next 90 minutes, three other men in Hackney and one in neighbouring Islington were attacked with corrosive substances, police said. All the victims were attacked while riding mopeds.

Police said in a statement on Saturday that the investigation into five separate attacks was ongoing.

Food delivery companies Deliveroo and UberEATS said two of their couriers had been attacked.

Read: Police investigate series of random acid attacks on women in Berlin

Attacks rise

London police said the number of reported attacks with corrosive liquids rose from 261 in 2015 to 454 in 2016. Some attacks appeared to be related to gang activity or the theft of cars and motorbikes.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said while acid attacks were rising in London, they were still relatively rare. 

"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," Dick told the LBC radio station in an interview.

In one recent high profile attack a 25-year-old man allegedly threw acid at an aspiring model and her cousin as they sat in their car. In April, a man allegedly sprayed acid at a crowded east London nightclub, leaving two revelers partially blinded and others disfigured.

Calls to limit sales

The latest attacks prompted renewed calls to place controls on the sale of corrosive substances.

The London Evening Standard published an editorial calling for an age limit on the sale of commonly available corrosive substances and much stricter controls on the sale of highly corrosive substances.

"We can learn something from the example of Bangladesh, where acid violence - mostly against women - has been significantly reduced by limiting sales and increasing penalties. The Government must follow suit if it is to tackle the acid scourge here," the paper wrote.

Read: India rape victim 'attacked with acid, fourth time'

Labour MP Stephen Timms proposed a ban on carrying acid and requiring a license to purchase sulfuric acid. He and another Labour MP are planning a legislation proposal later this year.

"I think that carrying acid should in itself be an offense, in the same way that carrying a knife wouldn’t have been an offence some years ago," Timms told BBC Radio 4's Today program. 

The Home Office said it was looking into further rules, but that it was difficult given many domestic products were potentially dangerous.

Highly concentrated sulfuric acid is a common ingredient of drain cleaner and is found in car batteries. Ammonia is found in many cleaners and can cause burns. Lye is often used as an oven cleaner and can also cause severe burns. 

"It's already an offence to carry acid or a corrosive substance to cause harm," Prime Minister Theresa May's spokeswoman said. "We are working with the police to see what more we could do."

"We will arrest people, we will enforce the law as we can, and we are working very closely with the [government] to try to see if there is any changes in the law required," Commissioner Dick told LBC radio.

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