RIVAL gangs of youths armed with an axe, knife and lumps of wood were involved in a terrifying mass street brawl on a Hampshire estate.

The violence erupted when several youths jumped from the back of a van to start attacking another group waiting in the street.

It left one man in hospital with stab wounds.

Just an hour later, a man was left with serious head and chest injuries in a hitand- run incident in another area of Southampton, which police believe could be a revenge attack.

The apparently organised brawl comes just a week after another pre-arranged fight in the city, in which a 15-year-old boy needed hospital treatment when he was slashed in the neck.

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Southampton’s communities chief last night admitted the city does have a problem with gangs, but insisted it was “not out of control”.

The latest violence came when a van drew up alongside a group of youths in Meggeson Avenue, Townhill Park.

Several people jumped out of the back of the vehicle and, armed with weapons, began fighting with those in the street.

Reports of how many people were involved currently range from “small numbers to double figures”.

A 22-year-old man was treated in Southampton General Hospital for nonlife threatening stab injuries, while a 19- year-old man received a cut to his head.

Around an hour later, a different 22- year-old man was run down by a silver or blue Ford Ka outside the Exford Arms pub on Exford Avenue, Harefield, and also taken to hospital, suffering serious head and chest injuries.

Although there is no suggestion the hit-and-run victim was involved in the earlier fight, detectives are linking the two incidents, and are investigating whether they are related to rival gangs.

Less than two weeks ago a 15-year-old was slashed in the neck after a fight in East Park, during an apparently organised incident involving around 60 schoolchildren.

Southampton City Council’s Cabinet member for communities last night said gangs are a problem for the city.

Cllr Royston Smith, who is also ward councillor for Townhill Park, said: “There are some gang issues which the police are very keen to address as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“It’s not out of control, but it’s not unprecedented, so it’s a shame and disappointment when it does happen. “There are gangs in Southampton, but they’re not out on the streets every night looking for their rivals. The problems are sporadic incidents of groups coming together and having a falling out.”

Four people aged between 18 and 21, all from Southampton, have been arrested and bailed over the attacks, which happened on Friday night.

Anyone with information should call Bitterne CID on 0845 045 45 45, quoting Operation Gemstone, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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