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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 18:11 GMT
Riots changed face of an estate
Red Dragon pub
The first night's violence centred around the Red Dragon pub
Two nights of rioting and violence terrorised Wales' largest housing estate in Wrexham last June.

The inside of the Red Dragon pub on Wrexham's Caia Park, where the trouble flared between Iraqi Kurds and other local people, still bears the scars of that first night of violence

Landlord Peter Thomas, who had taken over the pub just a few weeks before, is still finding shards of glass which were scattered when the windows were smashed.

"I've never seen anything like that. It was World War III. Iraqi Kurds were trying to get in, they'd got knives, they'd got swords, they'd got posts and pieces of wood wrapped in barbed wire," he said.

I told the police 'if you don't get down here somebody's going to die'
Peter Thomas

Violence had started hours before on 22 June when Iraqi Kurd Hoshank Baker Kader was set upon by local residents.

He suffered a fractured skull and was beaten almost unconscious in the attack.

At around 2050 GMT between 15 and 20 Iraqi Kurds armed themselves and attacked the pub.

Local men retaliated and ran out of the Red Dragon, arming themselves with snooker cues and the legs from bar stools.

"I told the police 'if you don't get down here somebody's going to die' and one of the lads was severely injured," recalled Mr Thomas.

Within 24 hours, most Iraqi Kurds who had been living there had fled the estate, fearing for their lives.

Hoshank Baker Kader
Hoshank Baker Kader was hospitalised in the attack

They took refuge at Pentre Broughton church hall near Wrexham staying for four nights.

"At the time we were just totally shocked by it. It came out of the blue and it wasn't something we were expecting." said Reverend James Aylward, who looked after the refugees.

But the situation was to get worse and a second day of violence followed. This time it was local men, including boys as young as 12 and 13, who were in a stand-off against police.

The trouble began when a number of people tried to reach the flats where the refugees had been living on Caia Park.

Social problems

But the Iraqi Kurds had already gone into hiding and dozens of police in riot gear were bombarded by a mob with stones and petrol bombs.

Officers from Merseyside Police, equipped with mobile CCTV units to pinpoint the troublemakers, were drafted in to help quell the disorder.

This evidence caught on camera played an important role in the sentencing of nine defendants to a total of 11 years.

Almost a year on Reverend James Aylward is still convinced that the rioting was a disaster waiting to happen.

"One particular ethnic group - the Iraqis - were all being housed close together in the middle of an estate which has its own social problems," he said.

"They stood out as a group simply because many of them went out to get jobs and they were often better off than the local people. There was a natural inbuilt tension that built up."

Since the problems Wrexham Council has changed its policy on housing refugees. Community groups have also been set up on Caia Park to look at their problems.

Speaking after the final sentencing on Tuesday, Wrexham County Borough Council's Chief Executive Isobel Garner said lessons had been learnt and changes made.

"In the short term and in the aftermath of the disturbances on the estate all the community came together to try and rebuild pride in the community.

"We also needed to give the people the opportunity to express their anger. In the longer term we have worked closely with community groups and our partners including the police to look at a number of issues, not only relating to Caia Park but relating to all our communities in Wrexham County Borough."

Meanwhile, North Wales Police have drafted in more officers to regularly patrol the estate.

"There are more police on the park now and it's encouraging to see, " said Red Dragon landlord Peter Thomas.

"Maybe they're getting it right this time."

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