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South Asians Take A Hit In Uk Riots, 3 Pakistanis Killed

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LONDON: The riots in England claimed South Asian victims on Wednesday when three young men of Pakistani origin were killed in a "deliberate" hit-and-run incident in the country's second biggest city of Birmingham. While retailers of Indian origin were attacked in Birmingham, in the west London suburb of Southall, home to a large number of Sikh migrants, scores of men armed with swords and hockey sticks guarded their gurdwaras through the night. One of them said: "We'll take the law into our hands, bad luck."

Although an uneasy calm returned to London, looting and arson continued in other English cities. A number of Indians suffered when their shops and properties were damaged by violent young men roaming the streets.

An angry crowd of Pakistani residents gathered outside a Birmingham hospital where the victims were taken in a bid to save their lives. Suspecting that the three men were intentionally run over and killed, the police ordered a homicide probe into the deaths. A 35-year-old man was arrested and a vehicle seized.

It is believed that the three men were protecting a mosque from hooligans who went on a looting spree in the central parts of the city.

A police spokesman said: "West Midlands police have launched a murder inquiry and arrested a man. They have recovered a vehicle which will be examined by forensics experts."

Two of the victims were identified as Shahzad and Harry Hussain. They breathed their last at the hospital soon after being admitted at 1.15 am. A third man, who was also in critical condition, was pronounced dead five hours later. According to the Birmingham Mail newspaper, the deceased had confronted the troublemakers.

Indian retailers were targeted in Birmingham. Dhillon Catering, an enterprise owned by a Sikh family, was broken into by rioters. Its delivery van was set on fire. A family of Indian origin was rendered homeless after their house was gutted by arsonists at Croydon in south London. A woman and her son lost everything except their mobile phones. In Leicester, which has a high concentration of people of Indian descent, shops and restaurants were attacked, windows smashed. Two businesses run by Indians were looted.

Among those keeping vigil at Southall gurdwaras were elderly Sikhs - some in their 80s. Reports suggested that every gurdwara in Southall was protected by around 200 men. A large number of Sikhs came out on the streets with sticks and metal bars in West Bromwich to save their place of worship from rioters. Devotees at one of the largest Sikh temples in London's Havelock Road telephoned young people for help.

Across the country, the police arrested around 1,200 people, including 800 in London, since the violence broke out on Saturday. London courts worked through the night to process all those charged.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday that Britain will not let a "culture of fear" take over its streets. In a televised statement, he said: "We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order." He said that the police have drawn up contingency plans to use water cannon, commonly used in Northern Ireland but never deployed in mainland Britain.

On Tuesday, thousands of extra police officers kept a nervous London quiet after three nights of riots but looting flared in Manchester and Birmingham. In Nottingham, arsonists lobbed firebombs through the window of a police station. They set fire to a school and a vehicle. In Liverpool, about 200 young men hurled missiles at policemen and firefighters.

Among the arrests for misuse of social networking sites were two 18-year-olds in Kent, adjoining London, a 19-year-old woman in Wakefield, in the northern county of Yorkshire, and a 16-year-old boy in Glasgow in Scotland. Cameron promised more arrests as police scanned CCTV evidence. "Picture by picture, the criminals are being identified and arrested," he said.


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