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Britain's right-wing 'at war'

Far-right English Defence League supporters clash with police in London's Woolwich after a man was killed there in a suspected terrorist attack. Warning: images may distress viewers.

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Far-right activists in balaclavas have clashed with riot police in London after the killing of a man believed to be a British soldier by alleged Islamic extremists.

More than 100 supporters of the English Defence League, some in paramilitary dress, gathered at a train station in Woolwich near where the man was allegedly hacked to death, according to London's Daily Mail and Channel Four websites.

The leader of the English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, left, with supporters in Woolwich after the attack.

The leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, left, with supporters in Woolwich. Photo: PA

Running battles erupted in the streets, with youths and EDL activists in balaclavas throwing rocks at riot police, Channel Four reported. The Mail said bottles were thrown at the police.

Police formed a cordon and the activists dispersed soon after. Some then gathered at The Queen's Arms pub and sang nationalistic songs, the Mail reported.

Elsewhere, two men were arrested after separate attacks on mosques following the killing.

Tense situation: police attempt to disperse demonstrators.

Tense situation: police attempt to disperse demonstrators. Photo: AFP

A 43-year-old man was in custody on suspicion of attempted arson after walking into a mosque with a knife in Essex, police said.

And a man was taken into custody on suspicion of racially-aggravated criminal damage after reports of damage at a mosque in Gillingham, Kent police said.

The EDL activists, who oppose what they say is the spread of Islamism in the UK, had first gathered at Woolwich Arsenal station, south-east London, waving a flag of St George and chanting "no surrender to the Muslim scum".

Members of the English Defence League gathered outside in Woolwich after the attack

Members of the English Defence League gathered in Woolwich after the attack. Photo: AFP

Leader Tommy Robinson told the crowd: "We have got weak leadership. They have allowed this to happen. People are scared to say the word Muslim. They are scared to offend them.

"You know what? We are offended. People in this country are angry. They have had enough."

The crowd, chanting "Rule Britannia" and "EDL", as well as "England", marched to the cordon where the killing took place. Others chanted "No surrender to al-Qaeda", the Mail reported.

The leader of the English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, left, with supporters in Woolwich after the attack

The leader of the English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, left, with supporters in Woolwich after the attack Photo: AFP

A statement on the EDL's website said: "The terrible events in Woolwich today were a reminder of something very few are willing to accept. We are at war."

The dead man is believed to be a serving soldier who was wearing a "Help for Heroes" T-shirt when he was ambushed in the street and attacked by two men with knives and a meat cleaver.

A witness said the men claimed it was a "message to the British government". They were later shot by police and are under police guard in hospital.

Fairfax Media