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National Guard ordered out of US riot town

National Guard troops withdrew on Thursday (Aug 21) from a US town gripped by nearly two weeks of protests over the fatal police shooting of a black teenager, as new details emerged about the white officer who pulled the trigger.

FERGUSON: National Guard troops withdrew on Thursday (Aug 21) from a US town gripped by nearly two weeks of protests over the fatal police shooting of a black teenager, as new details emerged about the white officer who pulled the trigger.

Demonstrations in the Missouri town of Ferguson cooled late Wednesday after Attorney General Eric Holder met the parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old student shot dead on August 9, igniting protests that frequently turned violent and stirred racial tensions.

The initial police response to the protests in the majority black town served only to aggravate demonstrators, some of whom armed themselves in response to what they said were unnecessarily aggressive tactics by the mostly white local force.

State troopers and then the National Guard were sent in to improve security, and by Wednesday night, following the Holder visit, tensions on the streets of Ferguson appeared to be easing, with police arresting only six people - compared to 47 on Tuesday.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said the National Guard, deployed on Monday, were no longer needed. They had the strictly limited role of protecting a police command centre, allowing law enforcement personnel to deal directly with protesters and rioting.

"As we continue to see improvement, I have ordered the Missouri National Guard to begin a systematic process of withdrawing from the city of Ferguson," Nixon said.

ENDURING CALM?

Holder pledged a full and thorough investigation into Brown's fatal shooting, which the teenager's family branded an "execution." Police say Brown - who was shot six times - was the suspect in a robbery, but muddying the waters, also disclosed that he was not stopped for that reason.

Some witnesses have said that the young man was shot while he had his hands up in surrender, while police sources and others allege that he had tussled with the white officer and tried to grab his gun.

Brown's funeral, a potential rallying point for more demonstrations, will take place on Monday, while there are more demonstrations planned at the weekend in the town and in the capital Washington. His remains have undergone three separate autopsies - by local authorities, the family and Holder's Justice Department.

Holder, an African American, called for an end to the unrest. "I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring," he said.

Holder stressed that it would take time for a full investigation to take place, adding: "But I think patience is in abundance in Ferguson. (That) doesn't mean that this thing should drag on."

Poignantly, Holder added: "On a personal level, I've seen a lot in my time as attorney general, but few things have affected me as greatly as my visit to Ferguson."

SUPPORT FOR OFFICER

One of the main demands of the protesters is that police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown, go on trial. New details have emerged about Wilson, 28, who has slipped into hiding since his fateful encounter with Brown.

ABC News, quoting a source close to Wilson who did not want to be identified, reported that the officer sustained "a serious facial injury" in the incident.

Wilson, who prior to Brown's shooting had never faced disciplinary action, is not without his supporters and as recently as last February was given a letter of commendation by the Ferguson police chief for his bravery in a separate incident.

An online Support Darren Wilson campaign has drawn more than 50,000 "likes" on Facebook and US$130,000 (S$162,500) in donations, ahead of a weekend rally in nearby St Louis.

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