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Wed 10 Aug 2011 08:06 AM

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Violence erupts outside London but capital stays quiet

Running battles between youths and police in cities of Manchester, Birmingham

Violence erupts outside London but capital stays quiet
Police forces in London saw a comparatively quiet night, after three nights of looting and violence

Violence flared in English cities and towns on Tuesday night
but London, where thousands of extra police had been deployed, was largely
peaceful after three turbulent nights in which youths rampaged across the capital
virtually unchecked.

Groups of youths in hooded tops fought running battles with
police in Manchester, smashing windows and looting shops. A clothes shop was
set alight.

In Salford, greater Manchester, rioters threw bricks at
police and set fire to buildings. A BBC cameraman was attacked. Television
pictures showed flames leaping from shops and cars, and plumes of thick black
smoke billowing across roads.

"Over the past few hours, Greater Manchester Police has
been faced with extraordinary levels of violence from groups of criminals
intent on committing widespread disorder," Assistant Chief Constable Gary
Shewan said.

"These people have nothing to protest against - there
is no sense of injustice or any spark that has led to this. It is, pure and
simple, acts of criminal behaviour which are the worst I have seen on this
scale."

Further south in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, cars were
burnt and stores raided. A police station was firebombed by 30 to 40 males in
Nottingham. No one was injured, police said.

In Liverpool's Toxteth district, rioters set fire to two
fire engines and a fire officer's car, police said. Earlier, some 200 youths
throwing missiles wrecked and looted shops, causing 'disorder and damage',
police said.

Police said they had arrested 47 people in Manchester and
Salford, and 37 in Toxteth. There were reports of minor disturbances in
Birmingham and Leicester, in the Midlands, Milton Keynes north of London, and
Gloucester in the southwest.

In London, commuters hurried home early, shops shut and many
shopkeepers boarded their windows, preparing nervously for more of the violence
that had erupted in neighbourhoods across London and spread to other cities.

Gangs have ransacked stores, carting off clothes, shoes and
electronic goods, torched cars, shops and homes -- causing tens of millions of
pounds of damage -- and taunted the police.

But the streets of London were quiet on Tuesday.

Community leaders said the violence in London, the worst for
decades in the huge, multi-ethnic capital, was rooted in growing disparities in
wealth and opportunity, but many rejected the idea that anything but greed
motivated rioters.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a family holiday
in Tuscany to deal with the crisis, told reporters: "This is criminality
pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated."

"People should be in no doubt that we will do everything
necessary to restore order to Britain's streets," he said after a meeting
of the government's crisis committee, COBRA.

Another such meeting was set for Wednesday. Cameron also
recalled parliament from its summer recess, a rare move.

London police said 16,000 police officers were on the
streets on Tuesday night, compared with 6,000 on Monday night. London has a
population of 7.8 million.

The unrest poses a new challenge to Cameron as Britain's
economy struggles to grow while his government slashes public spending and
raises taxes to cut a yawning budget deficit -- moves that some commentators
say have aggravated the plight of young people in inner cities.

It also shows the world an ugly side of London less than a
year before it hosts the 2012 Olympic Games, an event that officials hope will
serve as a showcase for the city in the way that April's royal wedding did.

"No one should wake in this wonderful city of ours to
see such scenes of devastation and violence," said Metropolitan Police
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh.

Article continues on next page...

Police said they had arrested a total of 685 people in
London since the looting began on Saturday. More than 100 police officers were
injured.

A 26-year-old man died after being shot in Croydon, the
first fatality of the riots.

Some Londoners, fearing more trouble, took steps to defend
their communities. In Southall, around 100 people gathered outside the Sikh
temple in case of new rioting.

The London 2012 Organising Committee hosted an International
Olympic Committee visit "as planned" and said the violence would not
hurt preparations for the Olympics.

But other sporting events suffered. England cancelled
Wednesday's international soccer friendly with the Netherlands and three club
games were called off.

On Westminster Bridge tourists took pictures of each other
in front of the Houses of Parliament as normal, though the crowds were thinner
than usual for an August evening.

"There are more police officers on the streets, we
noticed that but we didn't see anything else and we are kind of used to
violence on the streets anyway," said Pedro, a 23-year-old Brazilian
tourist. "We had a good day, went shopping... drinking in a pub, tourist
things."

The first riots broke out on Saturday in Tottenham, when a
protest over the police shooting of a suspect two days earlier led to violence.

Police are likely to come under fresh pressure over that
incident after a watchdog said on Tuesday there was no evidence that a handgun
retrieved by police at the scene had been fired. Reports initially suggested
Mark Duggan had shot at police before they shot and killed him.

Tottenham includes areas with the highest unemployment rates
in London. It also has a history of racial tension with local young people,
especially blacks, resenting police behaviour.

"It's us versus them, the police, the system,"
said one youth at a grim housing estate in the London district of Hackney, the epicentre
of Monday night's rioting.

"They call it looting and criminality. It's not that.
There's a real hatred against the system." His friends, some covering
their faces with hoods, nodded in agreement.

Earlier Londoners rallied to clear up neighbourhoods damaged
in the riots. Hundreds of volunteers carrying brooms, dustpans, rubber gloves
and black bags gathered on Tuesday in Clapham, south of the River Thames, to
help clean up.

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