Spain has been left in shock after a violent homophobic assault on a man in broad daylight in central Madrid.
The 20-year-old victim was attacked by eight masked men in the lobby of his apartment building in the fashionable Malasaña district on Sunday evening.
Police said the attackers used homophobic language, slashed the man’s mouth with a knife, and then carved a slur into one of his buttocks.
No arrests have yet been made, police added.
Authorities say they are analysing CCTV footage and interviewing witnesses to determine whether the incident was “a genuine homophobic attack or a hate crime”.
On Tuesday, Spain’s government strongly condemned the incident and convened an urgent meeting of a committee that oversees efforts to fight hate crime,
“There is no place for hatred in our society,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Twitter.
“We will continue to work for an open and diverse country, where no one is afraid to be who they are, where we all live free and safe.”
The attack came just two months after the suspected homophobic murder of another young gay man in the north of the country.
24-year-old Samuel Luiz was beaten to death near a nightclub in La Coruña, a killing that led to thousands of people demonstrating across Spain.
“Hate crimes must be firmly condemned by politicians and society,” government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said, adding that PM Sánchez wants to “take a personal lead” on the issue.
Activist groups say attacks on LGBTQ people are increasing in Spain and announced plans to hold street protests in the coming days at Madrid’s famous Puerta del Sol square.