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Agence France-Presse

Flames, Rioting Engulf London for Third Day

Guy Jackson

A car, behind the taxi, burns after it was set on fire by rioters in Hackney, east London, Monday Aug. 8, 2011. Youths set fire to shops and vehicles in a host of areas of London _ which will host next summer's Olympic Games _ and clashed with police in the nation's central city of Birmingham, as authorities struggled to halt groups of rampaging young people. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Violence spread across London for a third day on Monday with riot police tackling youths setting fire to cars and properties and looting shops in some of the worst rioting in the capital in years.

Buildings were in flames in Peckham, Lewisham and Croydon in the south of the capital while gangs of looters roamed the streets of Hackney in the east.

Hundreds of riot police poured into Hackney to try to contain the violence in a district just a few miles (kilometers) from where the 2012 Olympics will take place this time next year.

As darkness fell, police wielding batons pushed the youths back, while local residents hoping to return to their homes were kept behind police cordons.

In Croydon, an entire block of buildings was ablaze, sending flames leaping into the night sky.

The violence first erupted on Saturday in the multi-ethnic neighborhood of Tottenham in north London after a man was shot dead by police two days earlier.

Copycat violence then spread to other areas of the British capital on Sunday before reaching to new districts on Monday.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who cut short her holiday to return to London, condemned the riots as "sheer criminality" and vowed that the perpetrators would face justice.

"The violence we've seen, the looting we've seen, the thuggery we've seen -- this is sheer criminality," she said.

"These people will be brought to justice, they will be made to face the consequences of their actions."

Police said they had arrested 215 people before Monday's violence, including an 11-year-old boy. At least 35 police officers were injured in the unrest at the weekend.

The violence even spread beyond London after police said a group of youths in Birmingham, central England, smashed shop windows in the city center and stole merchandise, but reports said the violence was under control.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Monday visited homes and businesses burned down during the riots in Tottenham.

Tensions remained high in the area following the shooting on Thursday of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, amid fresh doubts about the original account of his death during a police operation against gun crime within the black community.

The father-of-four was shot in a taxi in what was initially said to have been an exchange of gunfire. But reports said it was possible that police officers were not under attack when they opened fire.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the watchdog probing Duggan's death, was expected to release the test results on Tuesday.

On Sunday, shops were looted and police officers pelted with stones in the southern district of Brixton; in Enfield, Walthamstow and Islington in the north and east, and on Oxford Street in the city centre.

Clegg -- who is officially in charge while Prime Minister David Cameron is on holiday in Italy -- said there was "no excuse whatsoever" for such attacks.

"The violence we saw last night (Sunday) had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Mr Duggan. It was needless, opportunist theft and violence -- nothing more and nothing less," he said.

During a tour of Tottenham, Clegg struck a more conciliatory tone, saying: "Clearly this is something that leaves big scars and we need to work together to start to heal those scars."

Although police and politicians said much of the violence was opportunistic, community leaders and many residents in Tottenham said it pointed to deep social unease in the area, one of the poorest in London.

David Bennie, in his late 40s, was riding his bicycle on his way up to look at the damage.

"Quite a few people were expecting riots this summer here. The economic situation has been building up and all it needed was a spark."

Tottenham was the scene of severe rioting on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in 1985 when police constable Keith Blakelock was hacked to death.

After Duggan's death, rumors spread online that he had been killed in an assassination-style execution with shots to the head -- something the IPCC was forced to deny in a statement.

Cheryline Lee, a Tottenham resident in her 50s, told AFP: "The police did not give the community any information about this man who was shot.

"But burning buildings like this is much too much. People have lost their houses and people have lost their jobs as well."

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