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Funeral for men killed in UK riot crash

By Bryony Jones, CNN
An estimated 20,000 people attended the prayer service for Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir.
An estimated 20,000 people attended the prayer service for Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir.
  • Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir were killed in a hit-and-run crash during riots
  • The three were keeping watch over local businesses, trying to protect them from looters
  • Four men have been charged with murder over their deaths

(CNN) -- An open-air funeral service was held Thursday for three men killed in a hit-and-run crash during violent riots that shook Britain last week.

Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir -- both in their 30s -- died when they were hit by a car in Birmingham on August 10.

Relatives say the men were keeping watch in the Winson Green area of the city to protect local businesses from looters when they were killed.

Thousands of mourners gathered at Summerfield Park in Birmingham for the public funeral on Thursday afternoon, before the men were interred alongside each other in a private burial service later in the day.

The trio were hailed as "martyrs" by friends and family. A message on large screens in the park bore the message: "Three precious souls gave their lives protecting all of us," Britain's Press Association news agency reported.

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"They made an example of how a Muslim should be and what Islam is," the Press Association quoted scholar Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi as telling the crowd.

"These three people are martyrs and the best we can do for them is to pray for them and for ourselves. To pray for our community."

Large crowds took part in a peace rally at the same park at the weekend, observing a minute's silence in memory of the trio, and listening to speeches by community leaders and members of the dead men's families.

There had been fears the deaths could spark race riots in the city: Winson Green is an ethnically-diverse area with a large Afro-Caribbean population.

Jahan, Ali and Musavir were of Asian origin, and witnesses described the men driving the car as Afro-Caribbean.

But Jahan's father Tariq was credited with helping to bring the riots -- which had spread from London to other British cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol -- under control after he appealed for calm.

"I don't blame the police, I don't blame the government," he said. "I'm a Muslim: I believe in divine fate and destiny. It was his fate, his destiny, and now he's gone, and may Allah forgive him and bless him. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise calm down and go home -- please."

A 30-year-old man appeared in court in Birmingham on Thursday morning, charged with murder over the deaths of Jahan, Ali and Musavir.

Three other men, aged 17, 23 and 26, have been remanded in custody charged with the murders in recent days.

Another three men, aged 16, 27 and 32, have been questioned by police and released on bail, pending further inquiries.

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