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Man killed in London subway not involved in attacks, police say

LONDON—The man gunned down Friday by police as he ran onto a London subway train had no connection to this week's terrorist attacks, police said Saturday. They called the death "a tragedy."

Police identified the man as Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, and said he was a Brazilian citizen. Brazilian television reported that de Menezes had lived legally for the past three years in London, where he worked as an electrician.

"We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday 21st July 2005," the police said in a statement. "For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."

The Brazilian Foreign Ministry said it was "shocked and perplexed" by the error and said Celso Amorim, the foreign minister, had requested a meeting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to discuss the shooting.

The mistaken shooting heightened the tension growing in the capital. Londoners on the subways said they no longer felt safe, taxi drivers wondered what security measures they should take, and an Italian soccer team announced it wouldn't play scheduled games this week in England because of the terror threat.

Police said they had arrested a second man in connection with Thursday's attempted bombings and announced that they had found a "suspicious package" believed to be a bomb and connected to the case.

Police have not identified either of the men being held nor said how they were connected to Thursday's failed bombings, which came two weeks to the day after four bombers detonated explosives aboard three subway trains and a bus, killing at least 52 and injuring 700. The bombers also died.

Police so far have declined to link the two cases, except to note the similarities of their targets: three subway trains and a double-decker bus, hit nearly simultaneously.

The British television network Sky News reported late Saturday that literature found in one of the backpacks recovered Thursday linked it to a white-water rafting trip two of the July 7 bombers had taken in Wales in the weeks before the attacks. Police labeled the report "media speculation."

Saturday, they searched a block of flats in Tulse Hill, forcing residents out just after 3 p.m., then swarming in, weapons drawn. Neighbors said they had no idea who or what police were searching for. Several residents said they heard gunfire, or loud noises that sounded like gunfire, though police say no shots were fired. Still, Alexander Sraha, a 36-year-old professional who lives near the search area and is black, noted that everyone is getting jumpy. He wore a New York Yankees cap and jeans.

"We're all suspects at the moment," he said. "If I were to put on an all black outfit and carry a rucksack, I'd probably get shot. The police are a little bit paranoid. Everyone is on edge."

Paul King, a 37-year-old administrator who was politely told to get out of his apartment by armed police as they searched his building, noted that, "it makes you feel a bit jittery."

According to the official version of de Menezes' death, police had been watching his apartment block as part of their search for Thursday's would-be bombers. When the man emerged, plain-clothes police followed him from Tulse Hill to the Stockwell station in south London.

Police said they ordered him to halt. Instead, he vaulted the turnstiles and ran onto a train, with police close behind.

The official report simply states: "He was then followed by surveillance officers to the underground station. His clothing and behavior added to their suspicions."

According to a witness quoted in London's Daily Mail, the man "looked absolutely petrified" as he ran onto the train. The witness told the newspaper that the suspect, just a few yards away from him, fell to the ground and officers were on him immediately.

"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."

Police did not confirm or deny the witness account. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it was investigating the killing, and there were few angry complaints about it.

Tulse Hill is considered rough for London, and residents nearby complain of frequent drug dealing, arrests and knifings. It is a short ways from the Brixton neighborhood, where shoe-bomber Richard Reid worshipped, and Stockwell station, considered by many as one of the rougher stops in the city. Residents say many who live there come from African or Caribbean backgrounds.

But the street where police conducted their raid Saturday is clean and appears prosperous, lined with three-story beige brick buildings built about seven years ago. Residents described it as an oasis in the area.

Across the city, a citizen walking through Little Wormwood Scrubs found a suspicious package and called police. Police believe that it may be connected to the recent bombings.

Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch, said: "The object appears to have been left in the bushes, rather than hidden. Naturally this is a matter of concern."

Meanwhile, Italian soccer club Inter Milan announced that it would not play a series of scheduled games in London in order "not to stretch the already severely occupied security services."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone called the move "silly."


(Potts is a Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondent.)


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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