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UK streets calmer after nights of riots and chaos

11 August, 2011

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LONDON: Days of rioting and looting across Britain looked to be cooling on Wednesday after Prime Minister David Cameron`s promised a fightback and flooded city streets with police to try to restore order.

By 9.30 p.m., incidents were limited to isolated skirmishes and standoffs between riot police and groups of youths, after four nights when often unchecked violence had been well under way by nightfall.

The capital -- host to the 2012 Olympics -- looked set for another uneasy but relatively quiet night, with 16,000 police deployed across the city and local groups protecting areas torn apart by arson, looting and running street battles.

Other cities in northern and central England such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, which suffered the worst violence on Tuesday night, also appeared calmer.

"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."

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, making deep cuts to public services to tackle a record budget deficit, has been quick to deny that the unrest was linked to austerity measures, calling the disorder "pure criminality".

Public anger over the widespread looting of shops appears to have strengthened the government`s argument, with stolen goods ranging from the expensive -- televisions and jewellery to the absurd -- sweets and bottles of alcohol.

However, community leaders and rioters themselves said the violence was an expression of the frustration felt by the poorest inhabitants of a country that ranks among the most unequal in the developed world.

"They`ve raised rates, cut child benefit. Everyone just used it as a chance to vent," one man who took part in unrest in the east London district of Hackney told Reuters.

End.


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