UK police make arrests after riot

Police in Britain are searching for a teenager who was the alleged victim of a sexual assault that sparked a riot that left one person dead.

    Riots erupted after an alleged rape in west Birmingham

    Officers have arrested five people in connection with the race-related unrest.


    Riots erupted in the Lozells area of west Birmingham after members of the African-Caribbean and South Asian communities held a meeting on Saturday over the alleged rape.


    The meeting was partly meant to calm tension in the community and encourage the 14-year-old girl, reportedly an illegal immigrant, to come forward.


    West Midlands Police said a group of people tried to force their way into the church where the meeting was being held and were prevented from doing so.


    Police said a series of minor disorders followed in the area. Shops were vandalised and at least one car was set ablaze during the clash, and hundreds of police in riot gear were attacked with bricks and bottles.


    Four people were stabbed, including a 23-year-old man, who was taken to Birmingham's City Hospital, where he died from his wounds. A police officer was shot in the leg with a ball-bearing gun.


    Public disorder


    Police arrested five people for suspected public disorder offences, a spokesman for West Midlands Police said.


    "This is the work of a small number of individuals and is not a true reflection of community relations in Birmingham"

    David Shaw,
    assistant chief constable of West Midlands police

    Officers received reports of 80 crimes, and 35 people were taken to hospital.


    "This is the work of a small number of individuals and is not a true reflection of community relations in Birmingham," said Assistant Chief Constable David Shaw of West Midlands Police.


    He said there was no evidence the girl had been raped but police were investigating and urging her to come forward.


    Racial tension


    The Lozells area has been a focus of racial tension in the past. There is a big African-Caribbean community, but gangs of South Asian youths have also appeared in the neighbourhood.


    Police relations in Birmingham
    have sometimes been strained

    Trouble sometimes erupts between gangs from the different ethnic groups, usually over drugs. There are also rivalries within the two communities, and in 2003 two girls were shot dead in violence between two gangs.


    Police relations with the community have long been strained. In 1985 riots broke out in the nearby Handsworth district following the arrest of a man during a stop and search operation.


    Khalid Mahmood, the lawmaker who represents the area in the Houses of Parliament, denied that the unrest amounted to a race riot.


    Few individuals


    "I think it was a few individuals, numbering less than 30, who decided to take it upon themselves to have this kind of mayhem," Mahmood told the BBC.


    He did not specify which ethnic group they belonged to.


    "I think the majority of the community is still very close together. I think the small number of people who were involved were predominantly from outside."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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