London's streets remained calm Wednesday night except for a few isolated incidents as thousands of police officers patrolled the U.K. capital with the help of armoured vehicles in an effort to deter rioters.

England has seen its worst rioting in decades in recent days but Prime Minister David Cameron vowed that law and order would be restored by whatever means necessary as London and other cities braced for a fifth night of potential violence.

Metropolitan police said objects were thrown at officers in the London neighbourhood of Eltham but the crowd was dispersed.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said six forces had requested assistance for Wednesday evening, according to the BBC.

Tensions were particularly high in Birmingham, where a homicide probe was opened into the deaths of three men, aged 21 to 31, who were killed in a hit and run while trying to protect stores from being looted.

"They lost their lives for other people, doing the job of the police," said witness Mohammed Shakiel, 34. "They weren't standing outside a mosque, a temple, a synagogue or a church — they were standing outside shops where everybody goes. They were protecting the community."

The father of the 21-year-old man who was killed stood in a Birmingham street and pleaded with members of the South Asian community not to seek revenge for the incident. The occupants of the car involved were reportedly black.

"This is not a race issue," said Tariq Jahan, whose son Haroon died. "The family has received messages of sympathy and support from all parts of the community — all races, all faiths and backgrounds."

He urged angry young men on the streets to "grow up" and go home.

West Midlands Police confirmed that a man has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the hit and run.

About 200 people attended a candle-lit vigil for the three men in Birmingham Wednesday night. The event was peaceful.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street following an emergency security meeting Wednesday, the prime minister noted that the addition of 10,000 police, for a total of 16,000, on the streets of London on Tuesday night and into the morning had helped curtail the violence.

"Whatever resources the police need, they will get. Whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ, they'll have legal backing to do so," he told reporters.

Cameron said police are already authorized to use baton rounds (plastic bullets) and that a water cannon is available at 24 hours notice.

He added that major police operations are underway to arrest criminals who were captured on closed-circuit television cameras during the rioting and looting.

The Metropolitan Police Service, which has a dedicated website for the riots, released more pictures on Wednesday of people detectives would like to speak with and asked the public to help identify those believed involved in the violence.

"Picture by picture these criminals are being identified and arrested and we will not let any phoney concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of the pictures and the arrest of these individuals," Cameron said.

Cabinet will meet Thursday to outline measures to help businesses and communities affected by the looting, arson and vandalism.

"Violence and thuggery is not acceptable," Cameron said. "Thugs are no way representative of the vast majority of people in our country, but there are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick."

Cameron spoke after the Metropolitan Police Service in London appealed for members of the public to contact the Operation Withern Major Investigation Team if they have specific information about individuals involved in the chaos that began Saturday, when a peaceful protest over a police shooting in the city's Tottenham neighbourhood turned violent.

The chaos, believed to have been led by youth that some say were as young as 10 years old, turned London streets into virtual war zones, before spreading to other cities. The number of arrests nationally has escalated to more than 1,100, according to reports Wednesday.

In London alone, according to the police website, more than 800 people have been arrested in connection with violence, disorder and looting. Of those, 167 have been charged, including an 11-year-old boy, leaving prison cells overflowing.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said it had teams of lawyers working 24/7 to help police decide whether to charge suspects, so they could quickly clear police station cells.

"With so many policemen on London's streets, the rioters seem to be lying low, but so are the people," CBC's Nahlah Ayed said from London, which is less than a year away from hosting the Summer Olympics.

The beefed-up police enforcement came after Cameron cut short his holidays to return to London on Tuesday to address the rioting, warning that the culprits "will feel the full force of the law."

Looting and arson hit Manchester

In the northwestern city of Manchester, hundreds of youths rampaged through the city centre Tuesday night, hurling bottles and stones at police and vandalizing stores. A women's clothing store on the city's main shopping street was set ablaze, along with a disused library in nearby Salford.


Shopkeepers begin to clean up on Ealing High Street, west London, following a third straight of street disturbances on Tuesday. ((Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Associated Press))

While the rioters ran off with sneakers, bikes, electronics and leather goods, they also torched stores apparently just for the fun of seeing something burn. They were left virtually unchallenged in several neighbourhoods, and when police did arrive they often were able to flee quickly and regroup.

In the central England city of Nottingham Tuesday, police said rioters hurled firebombs though the window of a police station, and set fire to a school and a vehicle outside a second police station, but there were no reports of injuries. A total of 90 people were arrested.

In the northern city of Liverpool, about 200 youths hurled missiles at police and firefighters in a second night of unrest, and the area's police force reported 44 arrests.

There also were minor clashes in the cities of Leicester, Wolverhampton, West Bromwich, Bristol and Gloucester.

Businesses have expressed fears that the violence will hurt their bottom lines — a prospect that Britain's sputtering economy can ill afford.


Firefighters spray water at a building set on fire by rioters Tuesday night in Croydon, south London. ((Sang Tan/Associated Press))

The unrest has been Britain's worst since race riots set London ablaze in the early 1980s.

A soccer match scheduled for Wednesday between England and the Netherlands at London's Wembley stadium was cancelled to free up police officers for riot duty.

Elected officials booed

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was booed Wednesday by crowds who shouted "Go home!" in Birmingham, while London Mayor Boris Johnson was heckled on a shattered shopping street in Clapham, south London.

'We have time in the next 12 months to rebuild, to repair the damage that has been done.' —Boris Johnson, London mayor

Johnson said the riots would not stop London from "welcoming the world to our city" for the Olympics.

"We have time in the next 12 months to rebuild, to repair the damage that has been done," he said.

The violence started Saturday evening after the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four who was gunned down in Tottenham on Thursday.

Police said Duggan was shot dead when officers from Operation Trident, the unit that investigates gun crime in the black community, stopped a cab he was riding in.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating Duggan's shooting, said a "non-police firearm" was recovered at the scene, but that there was no evidence it had been fired. An inquest into Duggan's death opened Tuesday, but a full hearing will likely take several months.


With files from The Associated Press, BBC, CBC News