Spanish youths battle immigrant gangs near Madrid
Young Spaniards stoned police in a town outside Madrid over the weekend after fighting Latin American gang members they blame for beatings, murders and rapes in and around the capital.
Rioters used text messages to summon as many as 1,000 Spanish youths to the town of Alcorcon on Sunday after a fight between Spaniards and Latino gang members the previous day led to multiple stabbings, according to the newspaper El Pais.
"This is a war for the district of Alcorcon against those who come from outside to invade us," 16-year-old Spaniard Efe Victor told El Pais.
Spanish youths rampaged through Alcorcon on Sunday looking for Latin Americans and shouting "Latin Kings out. We're coming for them. We are going to kill them".
Police came under a hail of stones from the youths and responded with rubber bullets. Shopkeepers closed early and pulled down shutters as bins were set alight.
Nine people were arrested, six of them under the age of 18.
The central government's representative in Madrid, Soledad Mestre, said none of those involved was in Latin gangs.
"There are no Latin gangs ... neither here in Alcorcon nor in the Madrid region is there any relevant activity," she told SER national radio.
The weekend brawls marked an escalation in tension between young Latin Americans and indigenous Spaniards who say immigrant gangs like the Latin Kings are behind a rise in violent crime.
Despite the highest rate of immigration in Europe, Spain has largely avoided the tensions between immigrants and native populations seen in some European countries such as France.
Imported from the United States and Latin America, the Latin Kings and gangs like the Netas have recruited young immigrants, many of them from Ecuador, by playing on widespread unemployment and feelings of alienation from Spanish society.
Government efforts to turn the gangs away from violence hit controversy in October when Barcelona's regional administration registered the Latin Kings as a cultural organisation while Madrid tried to have them labelled an organised crime gang.
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