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Britain hunts bombers, fears further attacks

July 25, 2005

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) – British police scrambled on Monday to
find four bombers behind last week’s failed attacks on London’s
transport system, fearing they had gone to ground after
security camera pictures of the suspects were released.

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 linked to al
Qaeda.

London police were keen to shift the focus back onto what
they called the biggest manhunt in their history after
mistakenly shooting dead a Brazilian electrician they believed
to be a suspected suicide bomber.

A police spokeswoman told Reuters the bombers “may strike
again so it is a race against time. 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 harbored in safe houses,” she added.

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

Weekend newspapers were full of the grainy closed-circuit
television pictures of the four suspects and police asked the
public for help in tracing them.

Police declined to confirm reports that a fifth would-be
bomber was on the loose. On Saturday, police found what may
have been a fifth bomb, abandoned in northwest London.

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

SHOT IN THE HEAD

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 people could be killed during the investigation.

An opinion poll on Monday showed that 71 percent of Britons
defended the policy, under which police marksmen are being told
to aim for the head rather than the chest to kill a suspected
bomber.

Interior minister Charles Clarke said: “A mistake was
clearly made which will be regretted forever. But I don’t think
that means that they are wrong to have a policy (to deal) with
these appalling circumstances.”

An opinion poll in the Daily Mirror 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 said Iraq was the main
cause for the bombings, with 62 percent saying it was a
contributory factor.

(Additional reporting by Peter Griffiths)




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