POLICE carried out a series of raids on the homes of suspected gang members yesterday in response to “rising tensions” in the wake of the murder of a teenager on the UK’s busiest shopping street.
Seydou Diarrassouba, 18, was killed after a fight broke out at a Foot Locker sports shoe store on London’s Oxford Street on Boxing Day, described by police as “the busiest place in the United Kingdom on the busiest shopping day”.
Eleven people arrested over the murder have been released on bail but yesterday police officers conducted a number of raids across the capital and made 13 further arrests.
These were for a range of offences including grievous bodily harm, robbery, affray, intent to supply drugs, burglary, forgery and handling stolen goods.
Met Police Commander Mak Chishty said: “We were aware of rising tensions in the wake of the murder and, having monitored the situation closely, including various comments that have been made on social networking sites, we felt it vital we take robust and prompt action in order to pre-empt any potential future violence.”
The motive for the fight inside the shop remains unclear but Mr Chishty said there were a number of members of gangs present at the time.
He said police were aware of people wanting to “seek retaliation or revenge” for what had happened. “We don’t want to see any other young person or anyone else lose their lives,” he added.
Further raids are expected across the capital.
He added: “This is just one of a series of measures we are carrying out in order to enhance the safety of the public and visitors to London, especially with New Year’s Eve pending.
“We will continue to aggressively pursue any lawful opportunities against those who choose to become involved in violent crime and thus protect potential future victims, in line with the commissioner’s pledge on total policing.”
Mr Diarrassouba, from Mitcham, south west London, died from a single stab wound which pierced his heart.
In a statement released through police yesterday, his family said: “Our loving son and brother has been snatched away from us.
“A simple shopping trip has turned into a complete nightmare for our whole family.
“We are urging anyone who was in Oxford Street at the time of the incident to come forward with any evidence, no matter how little relevance they think it could have, to help the police with their ongoing investigation.”
It added: “Whoever took his life took our backbone away.
“Seydou kept us upright and now we feel weak as we have lost a very special part of us.
“Life seems meaningless without our special son and brother.
“All we can say is ‘Why?’ He had so much consideration for others. We want Seydou to be remembered as the loving, down-to-earth, respectful and charismatic young man he was.”
A Facebook page called R.I.P. Seydou has received dozens of tributes from friends of the victim and condemnation of youth violence.
Those arrested in yesterday’s raids in Merton, Wandsworth, Southwark and Westminster were being held at various London police stations.
Last year the Metropolitan Police launched Operation Connect to help to support boroughs in cracking down on gang-related violence.