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Police want more time to quiz street battle suspects

POLICE were today asking magistrates for more time to question seven men arrested after Wednesday night’s street battles in Rochester and Gravesend.

Six people were injured in the gang fights among immigrants and weapons, mostly knives, were recovered from both scenes.

Police said today that the clashes were not racial incidents and that the immigrants, mostly Iraqis, were fighting among themselves.

North Kent Police spokesman, Martin Pearce said: “We are still investigating but this appears to be a dispute between rival gangs. This was not a racial incident. It was a dispute between people within their own community.’’

Nine men, believed to be in their late teens to 20s, were originally arrested in the clashes on suspicion of assault and affray but none have yet been charged. Seven are still being held at Dartford police station, but two who were held at Gravesend police station were released last night without charge,

Police were this morning due at Dartford Magistrates Court to apply for extensions of custody for the seven. The court can grant up to 96 hours but it is not known whether that amount of time is needed.

Mr Pearce explained that the investigation was taking longer because of the language barrier. He said: “We have asked for an extension because of the amount of people involved and because a number of the suspects do not speak good English so interpreters need to be brought in.’’

The fighting flared up at the Canal Basin area of Gravesend at about 6.30pm on Wednesday and then broke out outside the Casino Rooms in Corporation Street, Rochester, 20 minutes later. The incidents were thought to be linked although police have still to confirm a connection.

Police confirmed that none of the six wounded had life-threatening injuries although all had cuts consistent with knife wounds. Two were hurt in Rochester and were treated by paramedics before being taken to Medway Maritime Hospital. Another four men injured in Gravesend were taken to Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

The whole of Blue Boar Lane in was cordoned off in the aftermath of the Rochester fight as police preserved the scene for forensic teams to search for clues.

More than half a dozen cars in a parking area next to the garage in Corporation Street were also blocked in by the police tape and a squad car was parked nearby.

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