A gruesome vigilante assault on a Roma teenager who is now fighting for his life has shocked France, with President Francois Hollande dubbing the savage beating an "unspeakable and unjustifiable" act.
Accused of robbery, the 16-year-old was dragged into a basement in a town north of Paris on Friday, brutally beaten by a dozen residents of a housing estate and left unconscious in a supermarket trolley where he was later discovered.
News of the attack in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine only came to the fore on Monday, sparking widespread condemnation among the public, rights groups and the country's leaders.
In a statement issued by the presidency, Hollande asked "that everything be done to find those responsible for this attack" and Prime Minister Manuel Valls also hit out at the perpetrators of the assault.
The teenager, who lived with his family and other Roma in a squalid camp around an abandoned house, was accused of breaking into an apartment in the estate just hours earlier.
"A group of several people came to find him and take him away by force," a police source said on Monday, adding the boy was then locked in a basement where he was beaten.
Another source close to the case said about "a dozen people" took part in the attack. It was the boy's mother who alerted police that her son had been kidnapped.
A judicial source, also requesting anonymity, said the boy's "life is in danger. He is in a coma".
Michel Fourcade, the mayor of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, said the boy had been questioned by police several times this month in connection with a string of robberies in the housing project. This had fuelled anger towards the Roma, an ethnic minority also known as Gypsies, whose presence in illegal camps on the fringes of towns and cities has often spurred controversy in France where they are accused of being behind a rise in petty crime.
Ion Vardu, who lives next to the Roma camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, said some 200 members of the traditionally nomadic community had arrived "three weeks ago".
On Monday the camp lay abandoned after the Romas' rapid departure following the attack on the teenager.