Stabbing on London shopping street raises gang fears

27th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

British police Tuesday investigated the fatal stabbing of a man during post-Christmas sales on one of the world's busiest shopping streets, in an incident that has renewed fears about gang violence.

Scotland Yard said they had arrested 11 people after the 18-year-old man was knifed to death on Monday on London's Oxford Street. A further three people were detained after a second non-fatal stabbing nearby just hours later.

The murder happened after a fight broke out between groups of youths at a Foot Locker athletics store in front of thousands of horrified shoppers flocking for sales on December 26, or Boxing Day as it is known in Britain.

The area was cordoned off for hours after the incident. Police said a number of weapons were later found.

"This all happened outside Foot Locker and inside the Foot Locker store," senior Scotland Yard detective John Sweeney said in a televised statement on Tuesday.

"There were several people who witnessed this event both inside and outside the store and a number of them recorded it on cameraphones. We are particularly interested in those people coming forward to let us have access to that footage."

The dead youth was named by a friend as Seydou Diarrassouba from Mitcham, a tough area in south London.

Video footage posted on the YouTube website showed police holding back angry youths outside the Foot Locker store while paramedics tried to revive the victim.

Police confirmed that an officer had discharged a Taser stun gun during the confrontation.

In the second stabbing less than six hours later and just a few hundred yards away, the 21-year-old victim suffered non-life-threatening leg wounds.

Police said that shoppers should not feel unsafe and that they already had a high presence of officers in the area around Oxford Street, which is reportedly Europe's busiest shopping street.

It is home to more than 300 shops including the famed Selfridges department store and attracts tents of thousands of shoppers seeking bargains after Christmas.

But the violence has revived memories of deadly riots that rocked London and other English cities in August, when groups of masked youths looted and burned shops and five people were killed.

British authorities blamed street gangs for much of the violence and British Prime Minister David Cameron enlisted US street crime expert Bill Bratton to help find a solution.

Commentators in British media said Tuesday that the killing on Oxford Street symbolised a national problem.

"The murder at the sales is a perfect snapshot of UK 2011 -- casual slaughter, grotesque materialism, and boys who do not know how to be men," journalist and novelist Tony Parsons wrote on Twitter.

© 2011 AFP

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