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Two men were left horrifically injured after a group of men viciously targeted the pair in a suspected homophobic attack.

The incident occurred on Leith Street around 9.20 pm on Friday (June 30), according to Edinburgh News. The victims of the attack are believed to be a married couple and have suffered severe injuries with one of them requiring hospital attention.

Edinburgh News reported four men were seen kicking and spitting the men by witnesses who also recall the group of men stealing a bag from the injured pair.

Scottish police are investigating the incident as a suspected homophobic attack and are appealing to the public and eyewitnesses to come forward if they have any information.

Speaking to Edinburgh News, onlookers revealed they were left “trembling” after they watched the attack unfold.

“The victim came straight over, thanked me and I asked if he was okay. There was blood on the ground. He burst into tears and I held him as he sobbed so hard into my chest,” an eyewitness told the Scottish publication. “He told me he did not know why they did it to him.”

“The boys were laughing, egging each other on and calling the victims p**fs. Another girl (at the scene) heard them say p**fs explicitly.”

An onlooker, who shared the news on the attack on Twitter, offered public details of the gruesome assault:  “I witnessed the assault of 2 gay men outside John Lewis tonight. These were 2 of the 4 assailants. If you recognise them I suggest taking it to the cops.”

The eyewitness released a thread documenting what she had seen and explained she had offered statements to the police and had spoken with journalists.

The Twitter user added: “The video is horrific. Nobody did anything and it was totally unprovoked. The couple were a wreck afterwards. I’m still in touch with one of the victims, the concussion was severe- they can’t remember a lot and I’m surprised they’re OK.”

Detective Inspector Mark McGraw has confirmed the horrific assault is being treated as a hate crime in a statement: “We understand hate crimes can have a huge impact on those targeted, and an attack on people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or beliefs, is not only abhorrent but will not be tolerated.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report of an assault and robbery against two men on Leith Street, Edinburgh, around 9.20pm on Friday, 30 July.

“Both men – aged 33 and 30 – weren’t seriously injured. Enquiries are ongoing. Anyone with information should contact Police Scotland via 101 quoting incident number 3636 of 30 July.”

Jordan Daly, founder of Scottish inclusive education charity Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), wrote: “Horrifying. This is why deciding to hold hands, or kiss, or cuddle in public is often accompanied by fear, and feels like a risk assessment.

“This is why whipping up prejudice against minority communities is dangerous. I hope the perpetrators are found.”

Related: Gay man’s jaw shattered with hammer in suspected homophobic attack