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12 Jul, 2022 15:59

Syringe attacks puzzle European authorities

After a wave of assaults in France, the disturbing phenomenon has spread to Spain
Syringe attacks puzzle European authorities

Revelers at the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain have reported being stuck with syringes in crowded public places. Little is known about the substances they’ve been injected with, but one curious detail in victim testimony may link the attacks with a spate of similar syringe assaults in France.

As crowds gathered in Pamplona to watch daredevils run with the bulls over the weekend, a more sinister threat was lurking on the sidelines. Four young people – three females and a male – told police that they felt a pinching sensation before being overcome with dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweats.

All four were taken to the hospital by their friends, El Mundo reported on Tuesday. None were separated from their friends, none suffered sexual abuse, and no toxic substances were found in samples from the victims. 

While the national authorities have opened an investigation, police don’t know who carried out the attacks or why. “There is nothing concrete and nothing clear at the moment,” a police source told El Mundo. “We need more time.”

However, all four victims told police that they remembered “a group of young French people” beside them at the time of the attacks.

Two weeks earlier, the authorities in France detained and charged multiple suspects for allegedly pricking people with syringes at nightclubs and concerts. The victims were mostly young women, and 1,004 of them filed formal complaints since January, the Associated Press reported. 

In the cases that resulted in charges, medical testing revealed no signs of harmful substances in the victims. They displayed similar symptoms to those in Spain, and had visible signs of injection, including puncture marks and bruises.

Police found syringes and drugs in the belongings of at least two suspects, but toxicology reports have failed to show that these drugs were injected into the victims. However, unless tests were carried out immediately, the presence of GHB – a powerful anesthetic known as a ‘date rape’ drug – could have gone unnoticed, as it leaves the bloodstream within 12 hours.

“We didn’t find any drugs or substances or objective proof which attest to ... administration of a substance with wrongful or criminal intent. What we fear the most is people contracting HIV, hepatitis or any infectious disease,” a doctor working with multiple victims in the French city of Nancy told NPR last month.

“There aren’t any similarities between the cases. The only thing similar is that people are being injected with a needle in a festive context in different places in France,” a police official added.

A rise in syringe attacks was also noted by the UK authorities last October, while scattered cases have been reported in Belgium and the Netherlands.