LONDON, Aug 20, 2011 (AFP) - British police released dramatic footage Saturday of rioters shooting at unarmed officers and a police helicopter during an outbreak of violence in Birmingham earlier this month.
West Midlands Police said they were treating the incident as attempted murder, and urged members of the public to help identify those responsible.
The CCTV footage shows a group of 30-40 masked, hooded young men in Newtown in Birmingham, England's second largest city, late on August 9. They smashed up a pub and other shops, and threw petrol bombs at a passing police car.
They also fired shots at unarmed riot police officers, and up at a police helicopter which was keeping tabs on the rampaging youths.
"Eleven shots were fired at unarmed officers to enable disorder to continue, whilst petrol bombs were also thrown at officers who initially attended the scene," said Chief Constable Chris Sims in a statement.
"This footage shows seemingly co-ordinated criminal behaviour with no regard for people's lives, whether it be through the setting of a fire, shooting at unarmed officers or shooting at the police helicopter.
"This investigation is being treated as attempted murder and arson, and I am only thankful that this is not a murder inquiry."
Birmingham was one of several English cities hit by unprecedented rioting over four consecutive nights earlier this month, which began in the north London district of Tottenham following the police shooting of a local man.
Five people died in the unrest, including three men from Birmingham who were run down by a car as they tried to protect homes and shops from looters. Eight people have so far been arrested over the deaths, four of whom have been charged.