Zwichenzug Holding Zone
British Police Arrest Suspect, After Shooting Man in Subway
By ALAN COWELL
LONDON, July 22 - One day after four attempted bombings on London's transport system, police officers pursued a man onto a subway train today and fatally shot him at close range in full view of other passengers, the authorities and witnesses said.
Police also said today they had made one arrest related to Thursday's bombings in Stockwell, south London, the same area as the scene of the shooting. And, later, police in Birmingham said they had also made an arrest under anti-terrorism laws possibly related to the London attacks at a railroad station.
The killing threatened to overshadow police efforts to trace four men wanted for Thursday's failed attacks, which recalled the far bloodier assault on London's subway trains and a bus on July 7 when four bombers suspected of being Islamic exremists killed 52 people and themselves.
On a day when the police searched at least three homes in search of the bombers, the authorities also published photographs of the four wanted men. Three were shown at subway stations and one on the upper deck of a double-decker bus. One wore a dark top emblazoned with the words "New York" as he ran along a station corridor.
It was the second time that police had published images of accused bombers. An earlier image showed the four attackers from July 7 entering a station at Luton, north of London. The four images today showed the accused bombers at separate locations. The police urged anyone recognizing them to alert the authorities but not to approach them.
"This is the greatest operational challenge ever faced by the Metropolitan police service," Sir Ian Blair, the commander of the Metropolitan Police said at a news conference where police officials discussed the shooting and displayed the suspects' photos. "Officers are facing previously unknown thereats and great danger. We need the understanding of all communities and the cooperation of all communities. We need calm."
A police statement said, "The man shot at Stockwell station is still subject to formal identification and it is not yet clear whether he is one of the four people we are seeking to identify and whose pictures have been released today."
"The man who was shot was under police observation because he had emerged from a house that was itself under observation because it was linked to the investigation of yesterday's incidents," the statement said. "He was then followed by surveillance officers to the station. His clothing and his behaviour at the station added to their suspicions."
Sir Ian said the shooting was "directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation."
"I need to make clear that any death is deeply regrettable," Mr Blair said at the news conference. "But as I understand the situation, the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions. I can't go any further at this stage."
A witness who had been sitting on a Northern Line subway train at Stockwell station said the man had been pursued by plainclothes police officers who fired five shots at close range.
"I was sitting on the train,' Mark Whitby said. "I heard a lot of noise, people saying, 'Get out, get down.' I saw an Asian guy. He ran on to the train, he was hotly pursued by three plain clothes officers, one of them was wielding a black handgun. He half tripped. They pushed him to the floor and basically unloaded five shots into him."
As the man stumbled onto the train, Mr. Whitby told the BBC, "I looked at his face, he looked sort of left and right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox."
"He looked absolutely petrified and then he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him," he said. The police officers "couldn't have been any more than two or three feet behind him at this time and he half tripped and was half pushed to the floor and the policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand."
"He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him," Mr Whitby said. Some British reports said the man's heavy clothing may have persuaded police officers that he was carrying a suicide bomb.
At his news conference, Sir Ian said he knew that "there are rumors sweeping London and I do appeal to people to listen to the facts as they emerge."
According to the Metropolitan Police, fatalities in police shootings are relatively rare in London. Between 1997 and September 2004, police opened fire on 20 occasions, killing seven people and injuring 11.
Stockwell station is in the same area south of the Thames River as Oval station, one of the targets of Thursday's attacks. Two subway lines, the Victoria and Northern lines, were suspended after the shooting, plunging London's transport system once more into a chaos that some Londoners fear will be more prevalent. Lord Stevens, a former London police chief, said today that it could take "10 or 20 years" to end the terror threat.
The attacks also alarmed the drivers of London subway trains, which carry three million passengers a day, who are now pressing for increased numbers of staff on subway trains. Bob Crow, a leader of the drivers' union, said the union would back "any of our drivers who refused to work" during terror alarms.
While Londoners have gradually become used to armed police on the streets in recent years - particularly in the heightened security atmosphere since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States - the idea of armed police killing a suspect in full public view is still shocking. A debate on a Web site run by The Guardian newspaper today pursued heated arguments about the police action.
"I just hope they shot an actual terrorist," one contributor wrote.
The impact of the killing could be all the more incendiary if subsequent investigations identify the man as a Muslim. "This operation is targeted at criminals," Sir Ian said, apparently to head off accusations that Muslims are being unfairly singled out. "It is not targeted at any community or any section of the community."
But Nakib Islam, 19, a Muslim high school student, said "I am afraid of a stronger backlash" against Muslims. He was speaking after a bomb alert at the East London mosque turned out to have been a hoax.
"We all have to use the Tube and people who look like me all became suspicious. I even don't wear my rucksack anymore when I use the Tube because of that," he said.
Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said Muslims he had spoken to this morning were "jumpy and nervous."
"We are getting phone calls from quite a lot of Muslims who are distressed about what may be a shoot to kill policy," he said.
The rapidly unfolding events also stunned Londoners sensing a new vulnerability after Thursday's attacks.
While there were no direct casualties from the four attempts on Thursday - when detonators apparently failed to set off home-made explosives on three subway trains and a bus - some Londoners asked why the authorities had failed to protect them from a repeat bombing just two weeks after the first on July 7.
"I wonder why London is different to New York and Madrid - why is it being sustained here?" said Patricia Mitchell, 35, a call center worker. "I'm wondering if it's an easier target. It feels like London has a lot more people and a lot more public transport. But I was completely surprised. I totally thought it was going to be an attack on London and then they move on to another city."At the news conference today, Andy Hayman, a senior police officer responsible for special operations, gave the first detailed account of Thursday's bombings as he released the images of the four suspects. He said one device had been left in a subway car at Oval station, apparently by a man who had boarded one stop earlier at Stockwell.
A second device was left at the rear of the top deck of a number 26 bus in east London. A second image showed a man on the top deck of the bus "wearing a gray T-shirt with what appears to have been a palm-tree design on the frfont and a dark jacket with a white baseball cap," Mr. Hayman said.
In the third attempted bombing,a man in dark clothing was shown leaving Warren Street subway station, while, in the fourth a man in dark shirt and trousers was seen running from a subway train at an above-ground section of the Hammersmith and City Line at Shepherd's Bush station.
Even as Mr. Hayman was speaking, armed police armed with tear-gas and dogs broke into a house in west London at Harrow Road quite close to Shepherd's Bush. "There are two further addresses being entered by Metropolitan Police officers in connection with this investigation," Mr. Hayman said.
Reporting for this article was contributed by Jonathan Allen, Souad Mekhennet, Karla Adam, Hélène Fouquet and Pamela Kent.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company