Cameron pledges crackdown as riots spread to UK cities

 

Riots flared in English cities and towns tonight as London waited anxiously to see if thousands of police deployed on its streets could head off the youths who had rampaged across the capital virtually unchecked for three nights.

In Salford, part of greater Manchester, rioters threw bricks at police and set fire to buildings. A BBC cameraman was assaulted.

Television pictures showed flames leaping from shops and cars in Salford and Manchester, and plumes of thick black smoke billowing across roads.

In central Manchester, police said a clothes shop was set alight. "I can confirm a shop is on fire and 200 youths that gathered in the city centre have been chased by riot police and dispersed. Seven arrests have been made so far," a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said.

Further south in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, cars were burnt and stores raided.

In London, commuters hurried home early, shops shut and many shopkeepers boarded their windows as the city prepared nervously for more of the violence that had erupted in neighbourhoods across London and spread to other cities. Police promised to nearly triple their deployment on the streets.

Last night's riots appeared to be led by mobs of young people who co-ordinated their attacks through mobile phones, and spread to the cities of Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.

British prime minister David Cameron today said he would recall parliament from its summer recess for a day on Thursday after rioting swept through London for three consecutive nights.

"This is criminality pure and simple," he told reporters today outside his Downing Street office after breaking off his annual holiday to return to Britain."This is criminality pure and simple," he told reporters today outside his Downing Street office after breaking off his annual holiday to return to Britain.

Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee, Cobra, he said: “People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding.”

As residents and shopkeepers surveyed smashed windows, looted shops and burned out buildings in several areas of the capital today, many called for police to take more forceful action. Hundreds of protesters and police have been injured, mostly in the capital, since trouble flared on Sunday night. Police today said a man (26) shot in his car in Croydon during rioting last night had died in hospital.

Police said they might consider using baton rounds - non-lethal rubber or plastic bullets. "That's a tactic that will be used by the Metropolitan Police if deemed necessary," Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh told reporters. However, he ruled out calling the army onto the streets. He said police were planning for more mass disorder tonight.

Mr Cameron said some 16,000 police would be on London's streets tonight, up from the 6,000 on duty yesterday, boosted by reinforcements from across the country. "It is quite clear that we need more, much more, police on our streets and we need even more robust police action," he said. "These are sickening scenes . . . this is criminality, pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated."

More than 450 people have been arrested across the country. Police said they had arrested 334 people in London and about 100 in Birmingham. At one point, the London fire brigade said it was running out of vehicles to tackle fires, and police said they had called in 1,700 reinforcements to help London police cope with fast-moving groups of looters.

Scotland Yard said a total of 44 police officers were injured last night and that police received almost 20,800 999 calls, 400 per cent more than the usual 5,400.

“Last night was the worst the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] has seen in current memory for unacceptable levels of widespread looting, fires and disorder,” a spokesman said. “A significant number of arrests were made . . . leading to all MPS cells being full and prisoners being taken to surrounding forces.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson blamed the situation on a “mental contagion” taking over youths’ minds. “And when it does stop they will regret bitterly what they have done,” he said as he joins residents cleaning up after last night’s rioting in Clapham Junction in south London.

Meanwhile, the man shot by police in the

incident that sparked the riots died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, an inquest heard today. Mark Duggan (29) was killed by armed officers last Thursday in Ferry Lane, Tottenham, north London. The Independent Police Complaints Commission ballistic test results show said there is no evidence that he opened fire at police officers before he was shot dead.

The violence erupted late on Saturday in the Tottenham district when a peaceful protest over the police shooting of Mr Duggan two days earlier was followed by outbreaks of looting and arson.

By yesterday, the violence had spread to parts of the south of the city, including Clapham Junction, one of London's busiest railway junctions; Woolwich in the capital's southeast; Ealing in west London and the southern suburb of Croydon.

Rioting spreading beyond the capital, and police said they arrested about 100 people in Birmingham after looters smashed shops and stole goods. Police reported looting and damage in Liverpool and "copy-cat violence" in Bristol in the southwest.

In Hackney, a multi-ethnic area in east London close to the site of next year's Olympic Games, hooded youths set fire to rubbish bins and pushed them down a street towards police, while hurling bottles and bricks. Looters smashed their way into a local shop, stealing spirits and beer.

A Sony warehouse containing Blu-ray discs, CDs and DVDs was set ablaze following the riots. No employees were hurt at the warehouse in Enfield, northern London.

In the southeast district of Woolwich, dozens of locals of all ages looted shops and set at least two buildings on fire, leaving the streets strewn with broken glass and clothes. Mobile phone, sports goods and clothing boutiques were the looters' favoured targets, followed by jewellers and pawnshops. Several young men strolled by, balancing flat-screen televisions and computer consoles on their heads. The thinly stretched police were unable to prevent the looting.

In Glasgow, a boy (16) has been detained by police in connection with a Facebook message allegedly inciting others to riot. The message, allegedly inciting others to commit acts of disorder, is understood to have been reported to the police by concerned members of the public. The international football friendly match between England and The Netherlands, scheduled for tomorrow, has been called off following the riots.

A video has emerged that appears to show an injured youth, who is clearly in distress, being robbed by a gang who were pretending to help him.

Despite a heavy presence on some streets in London last night, police appeared unable to contain the violence as rioters who had initially co-ordinated through mobile phones and Twitter became increasingly confident.

The maker of the BlackBerry, Research in Motion, said last night it would co-operate with a police investigation into claims that its popular BlackBerry Messenger service played a key role in organising the London riots.

Scotland Yard vowed to track down and arrest protesters who posted “really inflammatory, inaccurate” messages on the service, and the social networking websites Twitter and Facebook. Although Twitter and Facebook have played a key role in past unrest in the capital, the Tottenham riots are thought to have been heavily orchestrated using BlackBerry Messenger.

The three nights of rioting in London and other major British cities are likely to cost insurers "tens of millions of pounds", a spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers said today.

Agencies