An attack on a supermarket in New Kingston, Jamaica, in which stones were hurled and staff were threatened with machetes was reportedly carried out by a gang of gay men in drag, according to one of the island’s newspapers.

The Jamaica Observer reports a group of around 17 men, some of whom were in drag, approached a supermarket around 8pm last Saturday.

The paper says three of the men went inside and tried to buy groceries on a credit card.

When the cashier asked for identification to verify the user of the card, the man trying to pay said that it belonged to one of his companions, and the men then became “boisterous”.

Security guards then tried to apprehend the men, who evaded them and went outside to join the rest of the group.

Some of the men then reportedly brandished knives and machetes at the guards and supermarket staff.

The group hurled stones at the building, forcing staff to close the shutters.

Police then arrived after being called by the security guards, and were able to apprehend one of the men while the others fled.

Commander Christopher Murdock of the local police force said: “We received reports that there was an incident at the supermarket and that one man was apprehended and charged for uttering forged documents.

“The police have also launched a manhunt for other members of the group who are wanted for several crimes, including stabbing and robberies.”

An anonymous police source confirmed that the men were connected to other incidents: “The men are part of a group that go around and commit crimes. We are seeking to talk to these men in relation to a number of incidents.”

One of the supermarket’s security guards reported that the gang had threatened to carry out a drive-by shooting, prompting guards to escort workers to and from bus stops when travelling from the store.

The behaviour of the men and the widespread claims that they are a gang of “vicious gays”, as the Observer termed them, has reportedly had a knock-on affect for homeless gay people – with the paper reporting that support and medical treatment from gay rights campaigners has been reduced.

Jamaica is considered one of the most difficult countries in the world to live as a gay person.

Gay sex between two men can carry a ten-year jail sentence or hard labour. Sex between women is not a criminal offence, but lesbians are reportedly persecuted.

In 2011, a Jamaican minister claimed he received death threats from gay people for his opposition to decriminalising gay acts.

In 2010, a Jamaican gay rights activist was found stabbed to death.

The previous year a British consul in Jamaica was found murdered with a note that said: “This is what will happen to ALL gays.”