Rioters went on the rampage in north London on Saturday, torching police cars, a bus and a shop amid widespread looting following a protest over the fatal shooting of a man by armed officers.
The patrol cars and the double-decker bus were set ablaze as hundreds ran amok outside the police station on the High Road in Tottenham.
Under a hail of missiles, riot officers and mounted police battled to regain control of the streets as fire crews rushed to tackle the burning building.
Rioters kicked in windows on the High Road as shops were looted, with people seen pushing away shopping trolleys full of stolen goods.
Central London has seen student and trade union protests turn ugly in recent months but this outbreak of rioting is the worst seen in years in the suburbs.
The unrest followed a march to the police station in Tottenham in protest over the shooting dead of a minicab passenger by police on Thursday in an apparent exchange of gunfire.
The 29-year-old, named locally as Mark Duggan, a father-of-four, died at the scene.
An officer may have had a lucky escape in the incident — a police radio was found to have a bullet lodged in it.
Saturday night’s disorder began with the torching of two patrol cars about 200 metres from the police station while their officers conducted traffic patrols on foot.
“A number of bottles were thrown at these two cars — one was set alight and the second was pushed into the middle of the High Road. It was subsequently set alight,” said a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police.
“The officers were not in the vehicles and were unhurt.”
Riot squad officers were been deployed to the north and south of the police station to disperse the crowd. Police vans screened off the High Road.
Local resident David Akinsanya told BBC television he was feeling “unsafe”.
“It’s really bad,” he said. “It looks like it’s going to get very testy… there seems to be a lot of anger in Tottenham tonight.”
Tottenham is an ethnically-diverse urban area best known for its English Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur.
Saturday’s unrest occurred following a protest march to the police station from Broadwater Farm, a 1960s public housing estate in Tottenham.
Broadwater Farm is widely known in Britain following the 1985 killing of Police Constable Keith Blakelock, who was hacked to death during a riot there.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which investigates all police shootings — regular British police officers do not carry guns — said that specialist firearms officers stopped a minicab on Thursday to carry out a pre-planned arrest.
They were accompanied by officers from Trident, the unit which deals specifically with gun crime in the black community.
“Shots were fired and a 29-year-old man, who was a passenger in the cab, died at the scene,” the IPCC said.
“It is believed that two shots were fired by a firearms officer, equipped with a Heckler and Koch MP5 carbine. A non-police issue handgun was recovered at the scene.
“An officer’s radio which appears to have a bullet lodged in it has also been recovered. Both the radio and the handgun are being sent for expedited forensic tests.
“A post mortem is due to be carried out as soon as possible.”
IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne appealed for witnesses.
“Fatal shootings by the police are extremely rare and understandably raise significant community concerns,” she said.
“I fully recognise how distressing and disturbing this must be for the family and the local community.”
David Lammy, the member of parliament for Tottenham, had said Friday: “There is now a mood of anxiety in the local community but everyone must remain calm.”