Local resident Lisa Meehan describes the injuries to the younger victim
Two boys have been arrested after an attack near Doncaster left two other boys - aged nine and 11 - in hospital, one with life-threatening injuries.
Police were called to the Brick Ponds area of Edlington on Saturday afternoon after the nine-year-old was found in the street "cut from head to toe".
The 11-year-old was later found semi-conscious in a railway cutting. He is critically ill with head injuries.
Two boys, aged 10 and 11, were arrested on nearby allotments, police said.
They were being questioned by police on Sunday.
The 11-year-old was airlifted to Sheffield Children's Hospital where his condition was described as critical but stable in intensive care.
'Covered in blood'
Officers from South Yorkshire Police are carrying out house-to-house inquiries to try to establish what happened.
Local residents told BBC News they believed the two boys had been hit with a brick, slashed with a knife and burned with cigarettes.
It is thought their mobile phones, trainers and about £3 in cash were stolen.
Local resident Lisa Meehan said her daughter found the younger victim wandering in the street barefoot and covered in blood.
"I felt sick to my stomach," she said. "You couldn't see his face, he was cut from head to toe with a gash across his head. They had slashed his arms and face and he had no trainers or socks on. His face was mashed."
Jean Wright explains how her son found the 11-year-old victim
Resident Jean Wright, 68, said: "My husband saw [the younger boy] walking past the outside of our house and he was covered in what my husband thought was red paint. When he went out he saw it was blood.
"We brought him in and my husband calmed him down. He had a big gash on his arm and he was covered in blood on his head. He was shaking very badly and going into shock. We managed to get his name out of him and my husband told me to call an ambulance."
Derek Wright, 70, said his son Ian saw the 11-year-old on the edge of a stream, lying face down with his arms outstretched. He was covered in dried mud and blood, he said.
Mr Wright added: "They're animals, absolute animals. How any child could do this to another child I don't know."
Councillor Georgina Mullis, who represents Edlington and Warmsworth ward, said: "Edlington is a mining community which will always be a close knit community. People do help one another... and they will be shocked that this has happened. We don't want this sort of thing happening."
The younger boy is being treated for his injuries at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
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