POLICE were forced to separate two groups of Libyan protesters who clashed in Sheffield city centre.
Skirmishes broke out between supporters of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and those who want him out, as both staged demonstrations outside the town hall.
Sheffield has one of the largest Libyan communities in the UK, with around 1,800 students and hundreds of exiled pro-democracy campaigners.
For nearly a month a small group of anti-Gaddafi activists have staged a daily vigil outside the town hall. Yesterday they were joined by around 30 pro-Gaddafi Libyans demonstrating against British air strikes on their homeland.
Solicitor Mark Fisher, aged 32, was on his dinner break when the violence broke out.
“A woman who was clearly on the anti-Gaddafi side was shouting at the people demonstrating against the military action,” he told The Star.
“The next thing about a dozen men charged at her with fists flailing. For about five minutes there were 30 to 40 people indiscriminately fighting in the street.”
When police arrived 20 officers formed lines between the two sides as they chanted slogans at each other.
Hamza Abu Aisha, a 28-year-old student from southern Libya, told The Star he was protesting against the bombing of his countrymen.
He said: “They are killing our children. Why can’t the USA and UK leave Libya alone to make its own decisions?”
On the other side Bim Fayed, 47, from Rotherham, said: “We support the NATO and UN action. We cannot fight Gaddafi alone. Those people do not represent Libya.”
A police spokeswoman said it was a “lawful and peaceful protest” and no arrests were made.