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London police chief expresses regret for shooting, defends tactics

LONDON—London's police chief apologized Sunday for the shooting of an innocent man mistaken for a suicide bomber Friday, but said that these are dangerous times, and that it could happen again.

The warning came as Londoners tensely prepared for a new workweek, fully aware that the perpetrators of last Thursday's attempted bombings remain at large.

"The Metropolitan Police accepts the full responsibility for this and to the family I can only express deep regrets," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said in an interview with Britain's Sky News television network. "But I think it's also important to recognize that ... the underlying causes of this are not a police action or a police policy or procedures but actually the fact that we have terrorists using suicide as a weapon on the streets of London and below the streets of London and that is the context in which we're operating."

Blair said officers had been instructed to "shoot to kill" when confronting a suspected suicide bomber.

"The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head," Blair said during the interview, a transcript of which was later released by police. "There is no point in shooting at someone's chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be."

Witnesses have said the man killed Friday, a Brazilian electrician identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, was shot five times in the head as he lay on the floor of a subway car.

In a separate statement, police said they had arrested a third man in connection with the Thursday attempts, in which would-be bombers tried to detonate bombs aboard three subway trains and a double-decker bus. But they continued to plead for information that would help them find the four would-be bombers whose images were captured by closed-circuit TV cameras and have been widely publicized.

Police also said a fifth bomb had been found that appeared to be linked to Thursday's attacks, which closely paralleled the deadly July 7 blasts aboard three subways trains and a bus and killed at least 52 people, plus the four suicide bombers who triggered the explosions.

Blair said police were not yet ready to link the July 7 blasts to last Thursday's failed explosions. "We have no proof that they are linked but clearly there is a pattern here," Blair said.

The events all made for a jittery public as the approach of Monday, and the start of a new workweek, heightened concerns.

"The shooting, the bombings, it's all very bad," said Farouk Zouhah, a 23-year-old Muslim. "Of course, I worry. Everyone worries."

Even without a new terrorist attack, commuters Monday will likely face a daunting task as they move around London. Seven of London's subways line will remain either closed or disrupted because of Thursday's attacks.

There is also anecdotal evidence that commuters are forsaking the subway and bus systems for private cars and taxis, either out of fear or frustration at the disrupted system. Taxi drivers complained bitterly Sunday that traffic has grown increasingly tangled since Thursday's failed bombings.

Police provided little new information of what led to the shooting death of de Menezes, 27, who had lived in London for three years. He was shot after plainclothes police who had followed him from an apartment building connected to Thursday's bomb attempts, told him to stop and he jumped a turnstile and ran onto a train.

But police said that they had arrested a man from the same Tulse Hill building where de Menezes was first spotted before he was trailed to the Stockwell station where he was killed.

Police provided no further information about the man, except to say he had been detained in connection with Thursday's attempted bombing and that he and two men arrested earlier were being questioned.


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

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