Youths rampage in Manchester as UK riots spread
Hundreds of masked youths tore through the centre of Britain's third-largest city of Manchester Tuesday, going on a looting spree as the worst riots for decades spread beyond London.
Violence erupted in Manchester, northwest England, for the first time in the four nights of rioting that have hit Britain, with a huge group of youths locked in running battles with hundreds of riot police in the city centre.
The youths smashed shop windows and went looting, setting fire to shops and hurling missiles at police.
There were also serious outbreaks of violence in Birmingham and other parts of central England, but London -- which had borne the brunt of previous violence -- was largely quiet after thousands of extra police were ordered onto the streets.
In Manchester, police were driven back by gangs of hundreds of youths who covered their faces with scarves and ski masks.
Gangs smashed into shoe shops, electronics stores and clothes shops and set fire to a girls' clothing store in the city centre.
Two raiders smashed the glass entrance of the Arndale shopping centre, the city's main central shopping mall, opening the way for around 100 youths to pour into a shop before rushing out carrying clothing and shoes.
Gangs taunted the police, hurling stones and missiles at shop windows and jeering riot police, who chased them in vans.
Glen Barkworth, general manager of the Arndale, told BBC television: "All of a sudden it turned in a second at 5:30 pm (1630 GMT) tonight."
"We've been breached on a number of occasions," he said.
"I've seen Miss Selfridge and Foot Locker both breached, looted and then torched. I've witnessed youths picking up gratings, throwing them through the doors of Footasylum where 50 youths cascaded into the unit, looting.
"What I've seen and the manner in which the rioters have split themselves into numerous groups, we're not talking about a group of 200 to 300 people doing damage. We're talking about half a dozen groups doing damage all over the centre.
"It's been a surreal day."
One Manchester resident told the BBC that looting had gone on "for hours" in the city after riot police were "driven back" by youths.
Earlier, hundreds were involved in a stand-off with riot police a few miles away at a shopping centre in the Salford area of the city, where looting also broke out.
Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney, from Greater Manchester Police, said youths had gathering seeming "intent on committing disorder" and urged people to stay away from the city centre.
"We will not allow such mindless criminal damage and wanton violence to go unpunished and we will arrest and prosecute anyone found to be involved in looting or acts of criminal damage," he said in a statement.
© 2011 AFP