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Two men face murder charges over deaths during British riots

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Hit-and-run suspects charged
  • NEW: West Midlands Police say they are overwhelmed by public support
  • London police say they have arrested 1,401 people since riots began August 6
  • The suspects appear in court in Birmingham and are ordered to return Monday
  • Residents say the three victims were hit by a car while protecting businesses from looters

(CNN) -- Two men appeared briefly in court Sunday, police in Birmingham said, charged with murder over the hit-and-run deaths of three men during riots that roiled Britain last week.

The two, ages 26 and 17, were ordered to appear in Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.

Police in London, meanwhile, announced they had arrested 1,401 people over violence, disorder and looting since riots broke out just over a week ago. Some 808 of those people have been charged, they said.

Residents say the three victims in the hit-and-run in Birmingham were mowed down by a car while protecting businesses from looters in Britain's second largest city.

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Haroon Jahan, 21, along with two brothers, Shazad and Munir Hussein -- both in their 30s -- were keeping watch outside a gas station following a break-in by looters during the riots, relatives said.

"The guy who killed him drove directly into the crowd and killed three innocent guys," said Tarik Jahan, father of the youngest victim. "Why? What was the point of doing that? I don't understand."

Two others remain in custody while another two are free on bail pending further investigations.

"All they wanted to do was to protect their business and other businesses within the community," said Abdullah Khan, an uncle of the two brothers.

Shazad Hussein was looking forward to the birth of his first child in a few months, the uncle said.

"A father will never hold his child, a child will never be held by his father, a wife without a husband, parents who have lost two sons. Words can never express what we are going through at this moment," he said.

Khan appealed for justice, and asked witnesses to come forward.

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Community groups are planning a peace rally Sunday for the victims.

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims, whose region includes Birmingham, said he had been asked to speak at the event.

He defended police response to the unrest, saying, "Locally in the West Midlands policing is seen as part of the solution not part of the problem.... Officers have been overwhelmed by the support shown by the public."

He said more than 500 people had been arrested by West Midlands police, and that while sentencing was "justifiably harsh ... we must not at this time abandon all compassion for some of our very damaged young people who have been caught up in these incidents."

Birmingham, like many other areas in Britain, was rocked by riots that started after the shooting death of a man who protesters said was killed by police.

The violence first broke out on August 6 following protests over the death of Mark Duggan in the north London neighborhood of Tottenham. He was shot after a police unit that deals with gun crime stopped a cab carrying the 29-year-old father of four.

Police have arrested more than 2,200 people around the country, including the 1,401 held in London.

Many suspects have already appeared before magistrates as hearings are held around-the-clock.

CNN's Alex Felton, Elizabeth Joseph and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.

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