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Government backs London police chief over shooting probe

August 20, 2005

By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government expressed
confidence on Saturday in London police chief Ian Blair, under
pressure over the police killing of a Brazilian electrician
mistaken for a would-be suicide bomber.

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot eight times by
police on an underground train last month, have called on Blair
to quit after leaked investigation documents cast doubt on the
official version of events and highlighted police blunders.

But Home Secretary (interior minister) Charles Clarke said
he was satisfied with how Blair and his force had responded to
deadly suicide bomb attacks in London on July 7 and an
attempted second wave of strikes two weeks later.

“I’m very happy with the conduct not only of Sir Ian Blair
but the whole Metropolitan Police Service in relation to this
enquiry,” Clarke told the BBC.

He said people should not pass judgment before the results
of an independent investigation into the shooting, which took
place the day after the failed second set of attacks.

“There are very important issues about the death of Mr de
Menezes and what happened and how it took place which rightly
should be investigated,” he said. “We have a process for doing
that.”

Earlier on Saturday, police said they had reviewed the
controversial “shoot-to-kill” policy for suicide bombers after
the killing of de Menezes but left it largely unchanged.

“We have reviewed it and we have made one or two small
changes, but the operation remains essentially the same,” a
spokeswoman for the London police force said.

The spokeswoman declined to detail the changes but Blair
said officers would continue to use lethal force if necessary.

“The methods that were used appeared to be the least worst
option (for tackling suicide bombers) … we still have the
procedure in use,” he told the Daily Mail newspaper.

British police spent years studying how to deal with
suicide bombers but the issue became acute following the July 7
attacks in which four British Moslem men killed themselves and
52 other people on three underground trains and a bus.

Len Duval, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority
which oversees policing in London, said there was a growing
consensus for a public inquiry into the “shoot-to-kill” policy
but it was a decision for the government.

On the day of the shooting Blair said de Menezes was under
surveillance as part of a hunt for suspects from the July 21
attacks and had not responded to police challenges. The next
day police admitted they had shot an innocent man and
apologised.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray)




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