Three Pakistanis killed as riots spread across UK
11 August, 2011
LONDON: Three Pakistani men, including two brothers, were killed when a car hit them during riots in Birmingham, officials said on Wednesday.
The three Pakistani men, including two brothers Shehzad Hussain and Haroon Hussain, and another youth Mussavir Ali died while trying to protect their community from looters when a car hit them, eyewitnesses said.
Police said they had arrested a man and launched a murder inquiry after the incident that happened at around 100am (00:00 GMT) as Britain’s second largest city suffered from another night of riots.
Paramedics said they found around 80 people at the scene after the car hit the men. Two of the men were pronounced dead on the spot and the third died later in hospital. Witnesses and family members said the victims were Pakistani men and part of a group protecting the area from looting after local people had left a local mosque. “People came out of prayers and they were protecting the area. My friends were targeted; they were standing on the side of the road and the car just came and ran them over,” witness Kabir Khan said.
Another witness said the incident happened after a car was set ablaze in a nearby street and youths gathered, prompting local people to defend a local shopping area. “They lost their lives for other people, doing the job of the police,” Mohammed Shakiel said outside the hospital where the men were taken, prompting around 200 people to gather in support. “They were protecting the community as a whole.”
Several cars drove past the group as it was guarding the stores and the occupants shouted abuse before one vehicle returned and mounted the pavement at “tremendous speed” and hit the men, throwing them into the air, Shakiel said.
Tariq Jahan, the father of Haroon Jahan, one of the men who died, told the BBC: “I’ve got no words to describe what, why he was taken and why this has happened.”
“He was a very good lad, starting at the beginning of his life. He had his whole life ahead of him. It makes no sense why people are behaving like this and taking the lives of three innocent people.”
Police said a 32-year-old man was being held on suspicion of murder. It said the victims were aged 20, 30 and 31. “West Midlands Police have launched a murder enquiry, arrested one man in connection with the incident and recovered a vehicle nearby which will be examined by forensics experts,” a police statement said.
Reuters adds: British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday “a fightback is under way” to restore law and order to Britain’s streets despite rioting, looting and arson by gangs of youths spreading from London to other cities.
Youths fought running battles with police in the northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool as well as in the Midlands overnight Tuesday. They smashed shop windows, carted off televisions and designer clothes, and torched buildings as police armed with shields and batons struggled to contain the disturbances.
A boosted police presence meant London itself - an international financial centre and host of next summer’s Olympic Games - was relatively quiet after three days of violent unrest that raised questions about the divided state of modern Britain.
About 16,000 policemen patrolled London’s streets on Tuesday night. Shops, pubs and businesses in many areas closed early after boarding up windows and the capital had the air of a city under siege.
“We needed a fightback and a fightback is under way,” Cameron said after a meeting on Wednesday of the government’s COBRA committee that deals with national security crises. “Whatever resources police need they will get.” This included baton rounds and water cannon, Cameron said.
The prime minister branded the unrest, which erupted in poor, inner-city areas of London at the weekend, as nothing more than criminality. He made no reference to social and economic conditions which community leaders say sparked the problems. The initial trouble followed the death of an Afro-Caribbean man in north London from a gunshot wound after an incident involving armed police.
“There are pockets of our society that are not just broken but frankly sick,” said Cameron, who made fixing “broken Britain” a cornerstone of his premiership.
The spread of the unrest to other cities including Birmingham, Britain’s second biggest, means the crisis is anything but over. Gangs of youths in hooded tops battled police in Manchester, smashing windows and looting shops, and setting fire to a clothes shop. In nearby Salford, rioters threw bricks at police and set fire to shops and cars.
“These people have nothing to protest against,” Greater Manchester’s Assistant Chief Constable Gary Shewan said. “It is, pure and simple, acts of criminal behaviour.” In the port city of Liverpool, rioters attacked two fire engines and a fire officer’s car, police said. Some 200 youths throwing missiles wrecked and looted shops.
Police said they had arrested 113 people in Manchester and Salford, and 50 in Liverpool. Cars were burned and stores looted in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton in central England; and in Nottingham a gang set fire to a police station.
The police - already facing manpower losses due to public spending cuts - are at full stretch. With thousands of reinforcements sent from regional forces to London, other cities might find their own police ranks depleted.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain has condemned the violence and called on its community to remain calm and to support the authorities. It also urged them to help clean up the streets.
The violence has appalled many Britons who have been transfixed by television pictures of rioters attacking individuals and raiding family-owned stores as well as targeting big business. It has also prompted soul-searching. Community leaders said the violence in London, the worst for decades in the multi-ethnic capital of 7.8 million people, was rooted in growing disparities in wealth and opportunity.
“This disturbing phenomenon has to be understood as a conflagration of aggression from a socially and economically excluded underclass,” the liberal Independent newspaper said.
“These youths live in the heart of British cities but they do not feel part of them. Far too little has been done by successive generations of politicians and public servants to integrate these individuals into normal society. The fuse for this explosion has been burning down for many years.”
The right-wing Daily Telegraph took a harder line. “The thugs must be taught to respect the law the hard way. These riots have shamed the nation and the government must be held to account.”
Critics say government policies of chopping public spending and raising taxes to cut a huge budget deficit have aggravated the plight of urban youth as the economy struggles to grow and unemployment rises.
The awarding of huge bonuses to bankers has become emblematic of a culture of flashy consumption for the elite. Alleged corruption within London’s police force and a 2009 scandal over parliamentarians’ expenses have also fuelled the notion that greed is a motivating factor across the spectrum of British society.
“Everyone’s heard about the police taking bribes, the members of parliament stealing thousands with their expenses. They set the example. It’s time to loot,” a youth in the riot-torn London district of Hackney told Reuters.
John McDonnell, a legislator for the opposition Labour Party, wrote in the left-leaning Guardian newspaper: “We are reaping what has been sown over the last three decades of creating a grotesquely unequal society with an ethos of grab as much as you can by any means.
“A society of looters created with MPs and their expenses, bankers and their bonuses, tax-evading corporations, hacking journalists, bribe-taking police officers, and now a group of alienated kids are seizing their chance.” Police said they had arrested a total of 770 people, one as young as 11, in London since the unrest began.