Three British-Pakistanis died Wednesday after being hit by a car during riots in the central English city of Birmingham as they were trying to protect their community from looters.
The three have been identified as Haroon Jahan, Shehzad Hussain and Mussavir Ali. Mussavir and Shehzad were brothers, and hailed from Gujjar Khan. Police said they had arrested a man and launched a murder inquiry after the incident which happened at around 1:00 am as Britain’s second largest city suffered from another night of riots.
Paramedics said they found around 80 people at the scene after the victims were hit by the car. Two of the men were pronounced dead on the spot and the third died later in hospital.
Witnesses and family members said the three were part of a group protecting the area from looters after locals had left a mosque.
“People came out of prayers and they were protecting the area. My friends were targeted – they were standing on the side of the road and the car just came and ran them over,” witness Kabir Khan Isakhel said.
Another witness said the incident happened after a car was set ablaze in a nearby street and youths gathered, prompting local people to defend a local shopping area.
“They lost their lives for other people, doing the job of the police,” Mohammed Shakiel said outside the hospital where the men were taken, prompting around 200 people to gather in support. “They were protecting the community as a whole.”
Several cars drove past the group as it was guarding the stores and the occupants shouted abuse before one vehicle returned and mounted the pavement at “tremendous speed” and hit the men, throwing them into the air, Shakiel said.
Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon, told the BBC: “I’ve got no words to describe what, why he was taken and why this has happened.”
“He was a very good lad, starting at the beginning of his life. He had his whole life ahead of him. It makes no sense why people are behaving like this and taking the lives of three innocent people.” Police said a 32-year-old man was being held on suspicion of murder. It said the victims were aged 20, 30 and 31.
“West Midlands Police have launched a murder enquiry, arrested one man in connection with the incident and recovered a vehicle nearby which will be examined by forensics experts,” a police statement said.Guardian newspaper quoted a group of British Asian men as saying they had seen the fatal incident, which was over in seconds but saw the victims flung into the air as a black Audi rammed into them. One, who declined to give his name, said: “Of course it was deliberate. No way was it an accident. The driver went on to the pavement and rammed them. He knew what he was doing.”
He said that four carloads of young African-Caribbeans had cruised down Dudley Road and there had been no doubt about what they were planning. He said that he had given evidence to the police.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron said a “fightback” had begun Wednesday against Britain’s worst riots in a generation, as he authorised the use of water cannon for the first time outside Northern Ireland. “We needed a fightback and a fightback is underway,” Cameron told a news conference outside 10 Downing Street after meeting top security officials following a fourth night of lawlessness and arson.
Cameron said he would “not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets”.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.