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Could you please tell me what is the difference between these two sentences?

There had also been reports that rival gangs of youths had been seen throwing fireworks at each other near the warehouses, and this might also have had something to do with the fire starting.

There were also reports that rival gangs of youths were seen throwing fireworks at each other near the warehouses, and this might also have had something to do with the fire starting.

marked as duplicate by Glorfindel, shin, user5267, P. E. Dant, Catija Nov 21 '16 at 3:16

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2

Both

have been
were

both talk about something in the past, and in your particular example have no difference in meaning.

However, without further context

there had been reports

is usually more general and nonspecific

There had been reports by various sources....

where as

there were reports

is usually more specific and concrete

There were reports by witnesses that...

The subtlety may change with additional context

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