LONDON, Aug. 9 (UPI) — Rioting in 10 London districts and three other British cities quieted by dawn Tuesday as Prime Minister David Cameron was to hold a crisis-response meeting.
Cameron reversed an earlier decision not to cut short his central Italy vacation and took a military plane home around 3 a.m. (10 p.m. EDT Monday) to lead an emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Room meeting to deal with the turmoil, which the government said had become a crisis.
Gangs of young people — boys and girls, their faces covered with scarves or ski masks — rampaged through neighborhoods, smashing windows, looting stores, overturning cars and trash bins and setting them ablaze, torching buildings including warehouses, terrorizing motorists and bus passengers, engaging in “mass muggings” of people in pubs, and attacking 1,700 riot police with wooden sticks, gasoline bombs, broken bottles, pieces of concrete, shopping carts and other makeshift weapons.
Police and witnesses said the youths communicated to each other by BlackBerry instant-message technology, along with social networking Facebook and Twitter Web sites, moving from district to district, spreading mayhem, and outmaneuvering police by racing through London’s clogged traffic on bicycles and mopeds.
CNN said 15 teenagers took over a bus in west London’s large Ealing area, forced the driver out and crashed the vehicle.
Residents of at least two London areas, Clapham Junction and Croydon, were told to evacuate. A 26-year old man in Croydon was hospitalized in serious condition early Tuesday after being found with gunshot wounds.
In Ealing and the south London district of Clapham, police used armored vehicles to clear the streets of gangs, The Daily Telegraph reported.
In other areas, officers appeared to let looting go unchecked, concentrating instead on stopping new violence outbreaks elsewhere, The New York Times reported.
Attacked boroughs and districts also included Hackney, Lewisham, Peckham, Woolwich and Enfield, moving late Monday night into the upscale Notting Hill and Camden neighborhoods.
More than 400 people in London had been arrested by dawn, police said.
The mayhem also spread for the first time beyond London to Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool, with similar violence, fires and bedlam, residents said.
An unstaffed police station in Birmingham was torched, ITV reported.
Birmingham police said they had thrown a half-mile cordon around the city center and had arrested at least 100 people, mostly teenagers.
Bristol and Liverpool also reported widespread arson and looting. an undetermined number of people were arrested.
The violence began Saturday night in London’s Tottenham neighborhood, north-northeast of Charing Cross, when a small, peaceful march outside a police station — to protest the killing of a local man, Mark Duggan, in a police shooting the week before — got out of hand.
The march turned into a pitched battle between hundreds of officers, some on horses, and equal numbers of rioters, wearing bandannas and armed with makeshift weapons that included table legs.
Ballistics tests from the Duggan shooting were expected to be released Tuesday on a bullet found in a police radio, the Telegraph reported. The tests will help determine whether Duggan fired on police before he was shot by firearms officers.