Three football players at Guilford College, a school with a Quaker background, face assault and ethnic intimidation charges after an attack on three Palestinian students, authorities said.

The victims were beaten with fists, feet and brass knuckles early Saturday by attackers who called them "terrorists" and used racial slurs, the News & Record of Greensboro reported Tuesday.

School officials believe about 12 people were involved in the altercation, Nic Brown, spokesman for the college in Greensboro, told The Associated Press. Administrators were still trying to determine whether some were fighting or trying to break it up, Brown said.

"We've had a very, very unfortunate event, unfortunate conflict among students who actually knew each other, and who had lived and interacted in the same residence hall with no conflict among themselves," Brown said.

Authorities charged Michael Bates, 19, of Reidsville, North Carolina; Michael Robert Six, 20, of Greensboro, North Carolina; and Christopher Barnette, 21, of Semora, North Carolina, with ethnic intimidation and assault and battery, according to court documents. They were released Monday on $2,000 (euro1,500) bail.

The college will allow the three to remain on campus while it conducts its own investigation, Brown said.

Barnette and Bates could not be reached Tuesday at phone listings for them. Six does not have a listed number. None of the players responded to e-mails sent to their campus accounts.

A school statement said the altercation, in a campus courtyard, lasted less than five minutes. The students involved were acquaintances without a history of conflict, and at least some of them were under the influence of alcohol, the school said.

Two of the students who were attacked, Faris Khader and Osama Sabbah, are students at Guilford. The third, Omar Awartani, is a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who was visiting.

"It was the most horrific experience of my life," Awartani told the News & Record. "This was a horrible, unprovoked hate crime."

Awartani said he was found to have a concussion and had trouble walking on his own for several days after the attack.

Barnette, a wide receiver, was named one of the top 20 Division III players in the nation by the American Football Coaches Association last month.