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London gets thousands more police

Cameron vows to end riots; 3 killed in Birmingham

Forensics officers were at work after three men were killed in a hit-and-run crash in Birmingham. A friend of the men told BBC radio they were helping to protect their area from looters. Forensics officers were at work after three men were killed in a hit-and-run crash in Birmingham. A friend of the men told BBC radio they were helping to protect their area from looters. (Darren Staples/ Reuters)
By Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless
Associated Press / August 11, 2011

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LONDON - Thousands of extra police officers flooded the streets of London yesterday to deter rioters, and Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the government will take any necessary action to restore order and confidence.

Even as Cameron promised not to let a “culture of fear’’ take hold, tensions flared in Birmingham, where three men were killed in a hit-and-run crash as they defended shops from looting.

“We needed a fightback and a fightback is under way,’’ Cameron said in a somber televised statement. He emphasized “nothing is off the table’’ - including water cannons, used before in Northern Ireland but never in Britain.

The number of arrests in London alone climbed to 805, with courts staffing around the clock to process alleged looters, vandals, and thieves - including one as young as 11.

Cameron has recalled Parliament from its summer recess.

An eerie calm prevailed as night fell yesterday, with a highly visible police presence throughout the city.

In England’s second-largest city of Birmingham, police launched a murder investigation into the deaths of the three men hit by a car. Residents said they were members of Birmingham’s South Asian communities who had been patrolling their neighborhood to keep it safe.

“They lost their lives for other people, doing the job of the police,’’ said witness Mohammed Shakiel. “They weren’t standing outside a mosque, a temple, a synagogue or a church - they were standing outside shops where everybody goes. They were protecting the community.’’

Tariq Jahan, whose 21-year-old son Haroon was killed, stood in a Birmingham street and pleaded with the South Asian community not to seek revenge against the car’s occupants, reported to be black.

“Today we stand here to plead with all the youth to remain calm, for our community to stand united,’’ he said. “This is not a race issue.’’

Chris Sims, chief constable of the West Midlands Police, said a man had been arrested on suspicion of murder.

“The information we have at the moment would support the idea that the car was deliberately driven,’’ he said, appealing for calm.

The violence has revived debate about the Conservative-led government’s austerity measures, which will slash $130 billion from public spending by 2015.

Last month, a report said the cuts will mean 16,000 fewer police officers by 2015.

London Mayor Boris Johnson - like Cameron, a Conservative - broke with the government to say such cuts are wrong.

“That case was always pretty frail, and it has been substantially weakened,’’ he told BBC radio. “This is not a time to think about making substantial cuts in police numbers.’’

Scenes of ransacked stores, torched cars, and blackened buildings have frightened and outraged Britons just a year before their country is to host next summer’s Olympic Games. Police across the country have made almost 1,200 arrests since the violence broke out in the capital on Saturday.

Armored vehicles and convoys of police vans backed up some 16,000 officers on duty - almost triple the number who were out Monday night. There were no reports of major trouble in London on Tuesday night, although there were scores of arrests.

Britain’s soccer authorities were talking with police to see whether this weekend’s season-opening matches of the Premier League could go ahead in London. Yesterday’s match between England and the Netherlands was canceled.

The riots began when an initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in London’s Tottenham neighborhood turned violent. That clash has morphed into a general lawlessness in London and several other cities.

While the rioters have run off with loot including sneakers, bikes, electronics, and leather goods, they also have torched stores apparently just to see something burn.

They were left virtually unchallenged in several neighborhoods, and when police did arrive the rioters often were able to flee quickly and regroup.

Some residents stood guard to protect their neighborhoods. Sikhs protected their temple in Southall, for example, and some 1,000 far-right residents reportedly took to the streets to deter rioters.

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