July 25, 2005

UK police race to stop bombers striking again

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - British police raced against time on
Monday to catch four failed bombers who may try again to attack
London's transport system, raising fears the British capital
had become a long-term target for Islamist militants.

Detectives believe the four, whose bombs failed to go off
in attacks last week, are still on the run in Britain and may
be hiding out at safe houses in the capital.

"They may strike again so it is a race against time," a
police spokeswoman told Reuters. "It is still a very fluid
situation. The inquiry is moving at a rapid pace."

"There is no reason to believe they have left the country.
They could be harboured in safe houses. That is a possibility."

The men tried to set off bombs on three underground trains
and a bus last Thursday, exactly two weeks after suicide
bombers killed 52 people in an attack officials have linked to
al Qaeda.

The attacks have sparked frequent security alerts in
London, as commuters become alarmed over abandoned packages or
people behaving suspiciously.

Reports that a fifth would-be bomber was on the loose could
not be confirmed. On Saturday, police found what may have been
a fifth bomb, abandoned in northwest London.

The investigation was dealt a blow and the reputation of
British police was severely tarnished when a Brazilian
electrician was shot dead by mistake on Friday by detectives
hunting the bombers.


Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was shot five times in the
head after being chased onto an underground train by undercover
police, witnesses said.

Police said Menezes had been followed from a block of
apartments in south London that had been under surveillance
since the July 21 attacks and was shot after running away from
armed police who had ordered him to stop.

The Brazilian government has demanded an inquiry into the
death. Brazilians staged a vigil in London and the
electrician's relatives said they were considering suing
British police.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who will meet his
British counterpart Jack Straw on Monday, said: "The Brazilian
government and the public are shocked and perplexed that a
peaceful and innocent person should have been killed."

Despite the concerns of human rights activists, police say
they will not abandon what they called their "shoot-to-kill in
order to protect" policy with suicide bombers. They have warned
that more innocents could be killed.

Interior minister Charles Clarke has defended the policy
under which police marksmen are being told to aim for the head
rather than the chest to kill a suspected bomber.

"A mistake was clearly made which will be regretted
forever," he said. "But I don't think that means that they are
wrong to have a policy (to deal) with these appalling

A new poll on Monday suggested Britons believe their
country's support for the Iraq war contributed to the London
bombings, a suggestion Prime Minister Tony Blair has denied.

Nearly a quarter of those polled for the Daily Mirror
newspaper said Iraq was the main cause for the bombings, with
62 percent saying it was a contributory factor. (Additional
reporting by Peter Griffiths)