One dead, 10 injured in 'rape' riot

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The Independent Online

A man was killed and at least 10 injured in Birmingham last night after gangs of several hundred youths rioted following rumours of an alleged sexual assault on a teenager.

Clashes broke out after a meeting attended by around 300 people in the Lozells area of the city which was called to address concerns over the alleged attack, said to have involved a 14-year-old Jamaican girl.

Streets were sealed off by riot police as some 200 Afro-Caribbean youths, many hooded or wearing bandanas and some carrying baseball bats, threw paving slabs and set fire to cars. Shots were also fired. The incident was still ongoing early this morning. An ambulance also came under attack by a group carrying sticks. One report said the dead man had been inside a burning taxi, which had possibly been petrol bombed. Around 10 people were taken to hospital, including a policeman.

A reporter for the Press Association, Alex Thompson, came under attack when she drove into the area. She said: "They were a large group, more than 100 hooded youths with baseball bats running through the streets. They hit my car with the bats and kicked it, they also attacked other motorists." The area is close to the location of the Handsworth riots 20 years ago.

Throughout last week protests had been held outside the One Stop shopping centre, said to have been the location of the alleged attack. News of it had been broadcast by a pirate radio station. It was said that the alleged victim was too scared to come forward because she is in the country illegally. Police have been trying to find evidence of an attack and locate the alleged victim. They carried out forensic tests, conducted house-to-house inquiries and distributed thousands of leaflets.

The Home Office said that the immigration status of the alleged victim would not be dealt with until after any court case.

The meeting earlier yesterday had been attended by the Perry Barr MP, Khalid Mahmood, and senior police officers. But crowds who had gathered became rowdy later in the day and violence erupted at around 6pm.