Leeds violence 'was premediated'

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The Independent Online

Police have said that the violence in Leeds city centre last night, in which several hundred Asian youths clashed with riot police, was premeditated.

Police have said that the violence in Leeds city centre last night, in which several hundred Asian youths clashed with riot police, was premeditated.

Grahame Maxwell, Assistant Chief Constable in charge of operations for West Yorkshire, said that a false report of a bomb being thrown at 8.15pm had drawn officers to the area. "This appears to have been the start of a premeditated attack on police officers" he said.

The protesters threw bottles, bricks and rubble at officers in running battles said to have been triggered by the arrest of two members of the Bangladeshi community three days ago. After a tense stand-off for several hours, renewed trouble flared after police moved in to try to break up the groups of up to 300 youths, shepherding them down side streets in the Harehills area of the city, according to witnesses.

One witness said a meeting was planned between the Bangladeshi community and police yesterday to try to defuse tensions in the area but locals said police had failed to address their concerns.

The fighting followed disturbances in Oldham last week between groups of Asian and white youths in Britain's worst race riots since the 1980s. Extreme right-wing groups were blamed for fuelling trouble in the town after reports of a "no-go areas" for whites and an attack on an elderly man walking home from a rugby match.

The riots developed into a major political row with the Liberal Democrats accusing the Conservatives of fuelling racial tensions because of their hardline policies on asylum-seekers.

The trouble drew extremist groups into Oldham with the British National Party announcing that it would be fielding candidates in the town for the general election. Extreme right-wingers called for a boycott of Asian businesses.

However, last night's disturbances were said to have been prompted by the alleged use of CS spray by police against the arrested man in front of groups of Asians.

"They took this man, they arrested him, kicked him and sprayed gas at him in front of Asian people," said one witness. "And that's why it started. It's not a racist attack, this is because of police inaction."

Another witness, Iqbal Hussain, said: "The mood is very ugly and residents are scared, we don't want this. Police are trying to stop any trouble but there are youths running and hiding in the tight streets."

Dog handlers, a police helicopter and van loads of officers were drafted into the area to try to prevent further violence. Police said there had been no arrests. One person had been taken to St James's Hospital in Leeds with minor injuries.

Harehills was the scene of rioting three summers ago when cars were set alight and a video rental shop attacked because of claims that it was stocking a blasphemous film.

A spokesman for the Racial Equality Council in Leeds claimed that the violence "was not a race-related issue."