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U.K. police pledge more arrests after weekend riots

British police on Monday promised a "momentous operation" to arrest rioters after a weekend of vandalism and looting that erupted in a disadvantaged London neighbourhood just kilometres from the site of next year's Olympic Games.

London violence after fatal police shooting leaves 1 officer in hospital and 7 injured

British police on Monday promised a "momentous operation" to arrest rioters after a weekend of vandalism and looting that erupted in a disadvantaged London neighbourhood just kilometres from the site of next year's Olympic Games.

Groups of masked and hooded young people looted shops, attacked police officers and set fire to vehicles in violence that has raised questions about security ahead of the 2012 Olympics and revealed pent-up anger against the city's police. Over 160 people were arrested.

Around 35 police officers were injured, including three hit by a car while trying to make arrests in northeast London. Police commander Christine Jones said officers were "shocked at the outrageous level of violence directed against them."

"This has changed from a local issue into organized criminality," police deputy assistant commissioner Steve Kavanagh said Monday as he announced a "momentous investigation" to track down the perpetrators.

"We will make sure that  this criminality is not allowed to continue," Kavanagh told Sky News.

The violence erupted in the north London suburb of Tottenham on Saturday night amid community anger over a fatal police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, a father of four gunned down in disputed circumstances Thursday.

Duggan was a passenger in a taxi when he was shot by police marksmen after officers apparently came under fire from someone in the vehicle.
Police officers detain a man in Enfield, north London, where some looting occurred Sunday night. (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

Some protesters filled bottles with gasoline to throw at police lines, others confronted officers with makeshift weapons, including baseball bats and bars, and attempted to storm the police station.

Within hours, police in riot gear and on horseback were clashing with hundreds of rioters, fires were raging out of control and looters combed the area.

One video posted to the Guardian newspaper's website showed looting even carried on into the following morning, with people even lining up to steal from one store just after dawn.

Police said "copycat" violence spread to other parts of London on Sunday night and early Monday, including the main shopping district at Oxford Circus.

Two patrol cars, a building and a double-decker bus were torched as rioters clashed with officers in front of the Tottenham police station, where people had gathered to demand "justice" for Duggan.

Sirens could be heard across the city as authorities rushed reinforcements to the scene. Shop windows were smashed as residents looted stores, pushing shopping carts full of stolen goods down the street.

Police said around 300 people took part in the earlier demonstration.

'Raised tensions' understandable: police commander

Scotland Yard police commander Stephen Watson on Sunday described the scenes as "distressing," but stressed public safety was "paramount."

He said in a statement that police "are aware of raised tensions ... which are understandable following the tragic death."

"What we experienced earlier on yesterday evening was a peaceful protest outside Tottenham police station — there was no indication it would deteriorate in this way. For those who involved themselves in this level of violence, there is no excuse."
Firemen douse a building set alight during the worst riots seen in the British capital in years. Mayor Boris Johnson said it was the 'last thing' London needed right now. (Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

Kilometres from the tourist hotspots of central London, Tottenham is one of England's most deprived areas.

In 1985, it was the scene of one of the most violent riots in the country's history after a local woman suffered heart failure when her home was raided by police. One officer was stabbed to death as he tried to protect firefighters and nearly 60 others hospitalized.

The violence has cast a pall over a city preparing to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

"I hope people will have a fantastic Olympics no matter what happened last night," London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a telephone interview with BBC television on the weekend, trying to assure the world his city was safe.

Others weren't so sure, suggesting that the riots had exposed incipient tensions at a time of sharp public sector cutbacks and economic uncertainty.

"This is just a glimpse into the abyss," former Metropolitan Police commander John O'Connor told Sky News. "Someone's pulled the clock back and you can look and see what's beneath the surface. And what with the Olympic Games coming up, this doesn't bode very well for London."

Soccer club offers help

Also on Monday, Premier League football club Tottenham offered to help rebuild the disadvantaged north London neighbourhood after the rioting and looting.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said the club is "deeply saddened" by the weekend rioting, which saw buildings in the area torched and police officers injured.

"The club is committed to supporting its community with help with both the physical clean up of our area and the longer term rebuilding of the community spirit," Levy said in a statement. "Itis more critical than ever that community, business and political leaders — local and national, public and private — now work closely together to support the regeneration of this area and we shall certainly look to play our part in that."

The damage at White Hart Lane was limited to a ticket office, which remains closed. But stadium tours have been cancelled for "safety reasons," Tottenham said.

Tottenham is due to host Everton on Saturday in its Premier League opener.

With files from CBC News