Rival gangs have been battling for control of Croydon’s London Road, leaving residents and shopkeepers terrified.

Two incidents within a week of each other last month left several men with serious injuries after clashes between rival Tamil gangs.

Up to 40 members of the Tooting Boys and Jaffna Boys battled it out in a mass brawl at about 1am on Sunday, May 15.

Two men, a 19-year-old and a 27-year-old, were found with head wounds and taken to hospital where the teenager was left fighting for his life.

The previous attack on May 10 saw more than 20 gang members fighting a running battle along London Road into Handcroft Road.

Fence posts were ripped out and used to beat a man who was almost blinded in the attack.

A witness, too terrified to be named, saw the attack from her window.

She said: “I looked down and saw men running around with baseball bats, fence posts and bottles. I saw them smashing a young guy over the head with the bottles and bats.

“I would say there have been four or five incidents in the past week.

“I can’t sleep. I’m terrified. They’re like animals.”

London Road traders said they were living in fear of the gangs, who constantly stole and threatened extreme violence if the police were alerted.

One store owner, who again was too afraid to be named said: “They come and take what they want.

“They take booze and food and tell us if we call police they will come back and destroy our business – or worse, kill us.

“We just let them do it now because it is an easier way to live.”

A restaurant worker who was also too scared to be identified in fear of reprisal attacks, said: “These people do not care about the police.

“In my country they would run as fast as they can from the police but here they just laugh at them.”

Detective Superintendent Gerry Campbell of Wandsworth police said: “It’s a job we are aware of and we will be working with partners in Croydon with a view to tackle some of the problems brought up by Tamil gang members.

“We are relying on the Tamil community to come forward and tell us who are the people causing violence, making threats and committing crimes against other Tamil community members.

"We want to take on these people who cause violence in Tamil communities “But what we haven’t seen is an ongoing pattern of very regular serious offences being committed.

“There may be a case of under-reporting crime in the Tamil community.

“We recognise most of the people in the Tamil community are law-abiding members. It’s a small number of people, young men, who are causing serious violence.”

The latest gang rivalry is a reminder of the hatred between the two gangs.

Four members of the Tamil gang the Jaffna Boys were jailed for life in 2008 after stabbing to death a rival from the Tooting Boys in a takeaway the previous year.

The gang of masked attackers chased Prabaskaran Kannan, 28, into Chicken Cottage restaurant where he was stabbed in front of horrified staff in 2007.

Aziz Miah, 20, of Sumner Road, West Croydon, Asif Kumbay, 20, of Grasmere Road, Purley, Kirush Nanthankumar, 18, of Purley Way, Croydon, and Vabeesan Shivarajah, 22, of no fixed address, were all jailed for murder at the Old Bailey.

Four men have been arrested in connection with the incident on May 15.

A 17-year-old and a 25-year-old have been bailed to return to a south London police station on June 30 and two other men have been charged with causing grievous bodily harm.

Prashad Suthilingam, 20, from Edgehill Road, Mitcham and Babiharan Balamurali, 19, of Hawkes Road, Mitcham, were remanded into custody at Croydon Magistrates Court on May 17.