London police probe riots amid spreading tensions

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London police launched a "major investigation" into the capital's worst rioting in years as violence threatened to reignite over the death of a local man in a police shooting.

Scotland Yard said it had made several arrests Sunday after youths vandalised a police car and smashed windows in Enfield, a north London suburb three miles from Tottenham, the area at the heart of the previous night's mayhem.

Gangs of youths had pelted police with bottles in Brixton, south of the capital's centre, an AFP correspondent reported.

Additional police resources were deployed in the volatile neighbourhoods. There was concern over intelligence from social networking sites that more riots were being planned.

Homes were torched and shops looted late Saturday in Tottenham, conjuring memories of 1985 riots in the same area and dampening the mood in a city hosting the Olympic Games in a year.

Police said 26 of its officers were hurt, while three members of the public also needed treatment following the surprise violence. By Sunday, all the injured police officers had been discharged from hospital.

A total 55 arrests were made after Saturday's riots, while Prime Minister David Cameron's office described the rioting as "utterly unacceptable."

Metroplitan police announced that officers working on the Operation Withern probe would interview witnesses and review hours of CCTV footage to locate the rioters who set fire to two police cars, a doubledecker bus and several buildings. There was widespread looting.

The mayhem followed a protest over the death of a 29-year-old man last Thursday during an apparent exchange of gunfire with police.

The killing of Mark Duggan, a father-of-four, was "absolutely regrettable," police commander Adrian Hanstock said in a statement, adding that an investigation into the shooting was underway.

According to the Guardian newspaper, initial ballistics tests on a bullet which was found lodged in a police officer's radio when Duggan was shot revealed it was a police issue bullet, raising doubts over the early explanation of events.

Duggan's brother Shaun Hall called for peace.

"We're not condoning any kind of actions like that at all," he told Sky News.

"I know people are frustrated, they're angry out there at the moment, but I would say please try and hold it down. Please don't make this about my brother's life, he was a good man."

London has seen student and trade union protests turn ugly in the last 12 months but this outbreak of rioting was the worst seen for years away from the capital's centre.

"The rioting in Tottenham last night was utterly unacceptable," a Downing Street spokesman said in a statement.

One witness said Saturday's scene resembled the Blitz, or when parts of London burned following German bombing in World War II.

"So many people have lost everything. It's just crazy. It looks like it's the Second World War. It looks like the Blitz where we were living," Tottenham resident Stuart Radose told Sky News television.

The area is an ethnically-diverse urban area best known for its football club Tottenham Hotspur.

Duggan was killed when specialist firearms officers stopped a minicab in which he was travelling to carry out a pre-planned arrest.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which investigates all police shootings, said they were accompanied by officers from Trident, the unit focused on tackling gun crime in the black community.

The march against Duggan's death began at Broadwater Farm, a 1960s public housing estate in Tottenham that is notorious across Britain.

In 1985, police constable Keith Blakelock was hacked to death on the estate in some of the worst urban rioting in Britain during the past 30 years.

© 2011 AFP

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