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Police ordered to shoot suspects in the head

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Newspapers said the police were operating under secret new guidelines, codenamed Operation Kratos, which allow them to aim for the head and not the body if they believe there is a threat to the public.

Police hold two men in London bomb dragnet
Sat Jul 23, 2005 10:53 AM BST

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Police were questioning two men arrested in south London as they combed the city in one of the biggest manhunts in British history on Saturday for four men wanted for failed bomb attacks on London's transport system.

The attacks took place on Thursday, two weeks after suicide bombers killed 52 commuters in the British capital.

The two men were held after raids late on Friday in the Stockwell area of south London close to the site of one of Thursday's failed bombs on three underground trains and a bus.

The arrests took place hours after police chased and shot dead another man in front of shocked passengers in the packed Stockwell Underground train station.

Police released closed circuit television pictures of the four suspects and appealed for the public to help find them, but warned that they were dangerous and not to be approached.

The clinical killing of a suspect in a train carriage took Britain's fight against terrorism to a new level of force, in a country where only specialist officers carry weapons and killings by police are extremely rare.

It sparked a fierce debate over whether police were right to adopt an apparent shoot-to-kill policy.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and anti-war campaigners condemned the shooting as the start of an unwelcome and dangerous new chapter, but police and London's mayor defended it.

"IHRC fears that innocent people may lose their lives due to the new 'shoot to kill' policy of the Metropolitan Police," chairman Massoud Shadjareh said in a statement.

Stop The War campaign said: "We don't want the situation to develop where the city is so tense that the police are inclined to shoot first and ask questions afterwards."


Mayor Ken Livingstone said the duty of the police was to protect the public against people considered to be terrorist suspects, and police said they had followed the man they shot from a house under surveillance and who had run when challenged.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it was investigating the killing, as it did all fatal police shootings.

Newspapers said the police were operating under secret new guidelines, codenamed Operation Kratos, which allow them to aim for the head and not the body if they believe there is a threat to the public.

London has been subjected to two sets of attacks in two weeks. In both cases, four bombs were taken on to three trains and a bus in four locations across the capital.

The first attacks killed 52 people and injured 700 in the worst peacetime attacks in the city's history. But on Thursday the devices failed to go off properly and no one was killed.

Because of that, police have more clues from the Thursday attacks, including the unexploded bombs, eye witness reports and CCTV footage, than they had after the July 7 suicide attacks.

But security experts and the former head of London's police warned that the attacks could continue.

"If you look at any normal terrorist campaign through history it usually does last a fair period of time," former Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens told BBC World.

"If we can stamp it out now, get to the root cause of what is taking place, all well and good. Let's hope we can do that."


Police called for sweeping new powers, including being allowed to hold terrorism suspects for up to three months without charge as compared to the current two-week limit.

Details of the manhunt dominated British TV bulletins, while newspapers splashed the suspects' pictures beneath the words "The Four Most Wanted", "The Fugitives" and "Human Bombs".

Witnesses told of plain-clothes police pursuing a suspect on to a subway train carriage. He slipped as he ran and then was repeatedly shot at point-blank range as he lay on the floor.

"I saw them unload five shots into him -- bang, bang, bang, bang, bang," passenger Mark Whitby, 47, said. "Five shots and he's dead. It was no more than five yards (metres) from me."

London's police chief Ian Blair said on Friday his force faced "the greatest operational challenge" in its history.

Hundreds of police, some armed with assault rifles and machine guns, took part in a series of raids across London.

Police refused to say if the men in custody or the man shot dead on the train were among the four suspects pictured in the photographs.

But the best-selling Sun tabloid said the first man arrested on Friday was suspected of trying to blow up the bus in Thursday's attempted bombings. Police declined to comment.

The Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade, an al Qaeda-linked group, has claimed responsibility for Thursday's bombings and those of July 7 and has threatened to target Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands, which also have troops in Iraq.

However, the group's claims of responsibility for previous attacks in Europe have been discredited by security experts.

Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed for calm but rejected suggestions that Britain's invasion of Iraq alongside U.S. troops in 2003 was in any way linked to the attacks.

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