Race relations on knife edge after three Asian men killed in hit-and-run

 

Police in Birmingham were struggling to contain swelling anger within the Asian community after a 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 defend their streets once more following an attack which has plunged a community into mourning – and awoken fury about what they believe to be a lack of police officers on their streets at a time of widespread unrest.

But Tariq Jahan, the father of one of the dead men, called for an end to the violence: "Today we stand here to 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. I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites - we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home - please."







Witnesses in the Winson Green area of Birmingham described the moment when Haroon Jahan, 21, and two brothers, Abdul Musavir, 31, and Shahzad Ali, 30, were struck by a car travelling at high speed in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The men were part of a group of around 80 locals patrolling Dudley Road throughout Tuesday night in a peaceful show of force against rioters who were bringing renewed destruction to the streets of Britain's second-largest city.

Tariq Jahan was standing yards away from where his son was struck down and desperately tried to resuscitate him as the car sped off.

Community leaders have tried to calm tensions in the area, but youths openly 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 young Muslim man.

The ethnicity of the car's occupants has not been disclosed but locals believe they were black. In Birmingham, where there have been violent outbursts between black and Asian youths, the perception that the perpetrators are black is potentially explosive.

Six years ago the racially mixed inner city suburb of Lozells exploded in two days of running battles between blacks and Asians. The spark that lit the fuse was a false rumour, broadcast on pirate radio stations, that a black woman had been raped by an Asian man.

At a public meeting a couple of hundred metres away from where the three men were mown down, the local MP Shabana Mahmood called on people to exercise restraint and allow the police to carry out their investigation. But Mohammed Nawaz, who has lived in the area for 20 years, said locals needed police to deliver results as quickly as possible: "We want to see justice done."

Police last night announced that 60 detectives were working around the clock on the collision, which they are treating as a triple murder investigation. One 32-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder. But last night police also confirmed that they are seeking other perpetrators.

Detective Superintendent Richard Baker, who is working on the case, said there were a dozen people in custody who police believe to be involved in the offence.