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Pair charged killings of trio protecting stores during British riots

British police charge two men with the murder of three killed in a hit-and-run attack on a vigilante crowd protecting Pakistani family-owned stores during riots in Birmingham.
Image: Jahan and Khan speak during a news conference in Birmingham
Tariq Jahan, right, the father of Haroon Jahan, and Abdullah Khan, the uncle of brothers Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, speak during a news conference Saturday in Birmingham, England, about the riots.Darren Staples / Reuters
/ Source: news services

A man and teenager were charged Saturday with the murder of three men in a hit-and-run attack during British riots in Birmingham, the deadliest attack during the past week's street unrest.

Both men are scheduled to be arraigned Sunday morning at Birmingham Magistrates Court on three counts each of murder, police said.

Joshua Donald, 26, from a street gang stronghold in Birmingham was identified as the older suspect. The 17-year-old suspect, who lives in the same district as the three dead men, was not identified because of his juvenile status.

The breakthrough follows an intensive investigation by a team of 70 detectives into Wednesday's hit-and-run slaying of Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31. They were killed after a car, allegedly containing several looters, struck them at high speed as they stood guard in front of a row of Pakistani-owned shops.

The killings threatened to ignite clashes between the area's South Asian and black gangs, but the father of Haroon Jahan made a series of public statements pleading for racial harmony and no retaliation.

Hiring of American upsets police
The charges came as police tensions flared Saturday over Britain's recruitment of a veteran American police commander to advise the government on how to combat gangs and prevent a repeat of the past week's riots and looting.

Leaders of the police unions in London and the northwest city of Manchester criticized the appointment of William Bratton, former commander of the police forces in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, as an insulting stunt.

Their criticism follows rising friction between Prime Minister David Cameron and senior British police officers over whether the government, or the police, deserve credit for bringing four days of riots under control.

"America polices by force. We don't want to do that in this country," said Paul Deller of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents more than 30,000 officers in the British capital.

Deller, a 25-year Met officer, accused the government of not being serious about following Bratton's recipe for reducing crime.

"When Mr. Bratton was in New York and Los Angeles, the first thing he did was to increase the number of police on the street, whereas we've got a government that wants to do exactly the opposite," he said, referring to Britain's commitment to slash law enforcement spending as part of debt reduction efforts.

Ian Hanson, chairman of the federation's Manchester branch, said local officers knew better how to police their own communities than "someone who lives 5,000 miles away."

Police have been on the defensive over their slow initial response to riots that rapidly spread Aug. 6 from the north London district of Tottenham to several London flashpoints and, eventually, to several other English cities. Cameron also criticized their tactics as too passive and announced Friday his government would receive policy advice from the 63-year-old Bratton, who resigned as Los Angeles police commissioner in 2009 after overseeing strong reductions in gang-related crime in all three of his commands.

Five people were killed during England's riots, including a 26-year-old man shot to death in his car and a 68-year-old man beaten to death after arguing with rioters and trying to extinguish a fire they had set.

The Birmingham arrests rose to five the number of men, aged 16 to 27, being interrogated over the trio of killings at the row of shops.

Victim's father 'humbled'
The father of the youngest victim, 46-year-old Tariq Jahan, told reporters Sautrday he was "humbled" by the letters of support from people around the world.

"I also want to thank the young people in Birmingham for listening to what I had to say and staying calm," he said.

Tariq Jahan received national praise for declaring, just hours after his son's killing, that he bore no anger toward his killers, the police or the government, and for appealing to young Muslims in his neighborhood not to retaliate against the black gang members believed responsible. His repeated public appeals appeared to deter any retaliatory violence.

About 200 people took part in a demonstration on Saturday in north London calling for more support for youngsters living in grim and violent housing.

Scotland Yard said that, as of Saturday night, 1,276 suspected rioters and looters have been arrested, of whom 748 have been charged with various crimes.

Nationwide, more than 2,100 people have been arrested. Courts in London, Birmingham and Manchester have stayed open around the clock since Wednesday to process the cases.