Police in Birmingham were struggling to contain swelling anger within the Asian community last night after a devastating hit-and-run by suspected rioters killed three young men, two of them brothers.
Despite appeals for calm from senior officers, young Asian men vowed to come out and defend their streets after an attack which plunged a community into mourning – and fury about what they believe to be a lack of police on their streets at a time of widespread unrest.
Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers, Abdul Mussavir, 31, and Shahzad Ali, 30, were struck by a car travelling at high speed in the Winson Green area of the city in the early hours of yesterday.
The men were part of a group of around 80 locals patrolling Dudley Road on Tuesday night in a peaceful show of force against rioters who were bringing renewed destruction to the streets of Britain's second-largest city. Haroon's father Tariq was standing yards away from where his son was struck and desperately tried to resuscitate him as the car sped off.
Community leaders have tried to calm tensions, but youths threatened inter-ethnic violence if police failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. "If the police don't do something soon, it's going to kick off," said one.
The ethnicity of the car's occupants has not been disclosed, but locals believe they were Afro-Caribbean. In Birmingham, where there has been violence between black and Asian youths, the perception the perpetrators are black is potentially explosive.
At a packed public meeting, the local MP Shabana Mahmood called on people to exercise restraint and allow the police to carry out their investigation.
But her pleas fell on deaf ears as furious locals stood up to denounce what they perceived to be lack of officers in their suburbs during the night.
Haroon's father pleaded: "We lost three cherished members of our community – taken in a way no sister, brother, father should endure. Today we plead with all the youth to remain calm, for our communities to stand united. This is not a race issue. The family has received messages of sympathy and support from all parts of society."
One 32-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and police confirmed they are seeking other perpetrators.