British PM vows to restore order after 'mob rule'

9th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister David Cameron recalled parliament Tuesday and ordered thousands of extra police onto the streets after Britain's worst rioting in decades left parts of London and other cities in flames.

As the disorder claimed its first fatality with the death of a man found shot during looting in south London, Cameron vowed to do "everything necessary to restore order to the streets" after three nights of violence.

The prime minister cut short his holiday in Italy to return to Britain for an emergency meeting on the riots, which he condemned as "sickening scenes".

Police have begun releasing CCTV pictures of the looters, many of them in their teens. Some 525 people have been arrested in London in the last three days, Scotland Yard said.

Cameron warned: "You will feel the full force of the law. And if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishments."

He said that all police leave had been cancelled and there would be 16,000 officers on the streets of London on Tuesday night, compared to the 6,000 deployed on Monday evening.

Riots swept through London and in other English cities including Birmingham and Liverpool overnight Monday, the third consecutive night of violence which began in the north London district of Tottenham on Saturday following the shooting of local man by police.

The family of the dead man, Mark Duggan, condemned the violence Tuesday, saying in a statement that they were "deeply distressed" by the unrest, which they insisted "has nothing to do with finding out what has happened to Mark".

Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said the rampage by hundreds of hooded youths overnight was "unprecedented" and said police resources were stretched "to an extent I have never seen before".

He said that plastic bullets -- used during sectarian unrest in Northern Ireland but never before in mainland Britain -- have been considered as "one of the tactics" to stem the tide of unrest.

The violence has raised questions about security ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games, and it prompted the Football Association to cancel Wednesday's friendly between England and the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium.

In some areas on Monday, rioters took control of the streets with little sign of a police presence. In Clapham, a mainly affluent area of southwest London, hundreds looted a department store for at least two hours, witnesses said.

Newspapers declared "mob rule", and one police officer, Paul Deller, admitted on Tuesday: "We simply ran out of units to send."

Police have also urged parents to keep their children at home.

They said too many people had been arrested to hold in the city's police station jails, including three for attempted murder after a police officer was hit by a car in Brent, northwest London.

At least 44 police officers were injured overnight Monday, in addition to at least 35 who were hurt on the previous two evenings, police said.

Despite the scenes of devastation, Acting Police Commissioner Tim Godwin said there were "no plans" for the army to get involved.

The speaker of the House of Commons has agreed to recall parliament on Thursday so lawmakers could debate their response to the riots, Cameron said -- a highly unusual move highlighting the seriousness of the crisis.

The violence began on Saturday in the ethnically-mixed north London district of Tottenham, following a protest against Duggan's shooting two days earlier.

An inquest into the 29-year-old's death opened on Tuesday, and heard that he died of a single gunshot wound to the chest after the taxi he was travelling in was stopped by police investigating gun crime in the black community.

Copycat riots broke out in other flashpoint areas on Sunday, and by Monday night they had spread across the city, from the wealthy districts of Notting Hill and Clapham, to inner-city Peckham and Hackney, and suburban Croydon and Ealing.

Cameron visited some of the worst destruction in Croydon in south London, where an entire block of buildings -- including a 100-year-old family furniture business -- was burned down, sending flames leaping into the night sky.

A 26-year-old man was found with gunshot wounds in a car nearby, and police said Tuesday he had died, becoming the first fatality of the riots. A murder investigation has been launched.

The violence also spread outside London on Monday night, including to the northwest city of Liverpool, where hundreds of rioters rampaged through the streets for several hours, setting cars and dustbins alight.

Police in Birmingham, in central England, said they had made 138 arrests as youths ran riot and looted shops in the city centre overnight, while police in the western city of Bristol battled to contain a mob of 150 youths.

© 2011 AFP

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