Man killed, 2 held in intense hunt for London attackers

4 bomb-carriers remain at large, authorities say

July 23, 2005|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- In an aggressive effort to capture four men who tried to bomb London's transit system, heavily armed police swarmed through London's subway tunnels yesterday, blasted their way into a suspect house and then chased a man across a subway platform and into a train, knocked him down and shot him to death as passengers ducked for cover.

Police said the man was directly connected to an attack on the transit system Thursday, and later they announced the arrest of two others.

The four bombers, though, were apparently still at large.

Yesterday was an exhausting day to live in London, mainly because the stakes were so high in catching the bombers.

Only the day before, Londoners were feeling a bit lucky and relieved, after four men who tried to bomb three subway cars and a double-decker bus failed to set off their explosives.

That spared the city a repeat of the carnage caused by bombs on July 7. Fifty-six people died in that attack, and more than 700 were injured.

The men responsible for those deaths and injuries blew themselves up in the process, but the most recent four bombers fled the trains and stations with the passengers they had just panicked.

"This is a very fast-moving investigation," Sir Ian Blair, the commissioner at Scotland Yard, told a news conference. "This is the greatest operational challenge ever faced by the Metropolitan Police Services."

After reviewing tapes recorded by closed-circuit TV cameras in the subway stations and on the bus, police believe they know what the would-be bombers look like but as of last night did not know their names.

Police released pictures of their suspects to the news media; their faces were on television all day and night and will be in the newspapers this morning.

Two of the photographs are relatively clear, and two are blurred. One of the men, who appears to be running from a station after the attack, is shown wearing a sweat shirt with "NEW YORK" emblazoned across its front.

Though the bombers are at large, the investigation appeared to make rapid progress.

Yesterday, police raided a house in Stockwell, in south London, close to the subway station where police killed the man said to be fleeing them.

Investigators said that one of the bombers had boarded the Victoria Line at that same station Thursday and that his train was pulling into the Warren Street stop when the detonator of his bomb went off.

The blast split the rucksack he was carrying it in, but the main bomb failed to explode.

"We attended an address at Stockwell in connection with the ongoing investigation into the incidents" Thursday, a police spokesman said. "We continue to search the premises, and we can report one man has been arrested."

Assistant Police Commissioner Andy Hayman told a news conference that authorities also searched three homes, including one in central London, as part of their investigation, but he would provide no further details.

He also said the explosives used in Thursday's bombings appeared "homemade" and were concealed in dark rucksacks. Authorities believe the bombs that exploded July 7 were concealed that same way.

Later in the day, police arrested another man, this one at a train station in Birmingham. They seized two suitcases from the man and evacuated the station while explosive experts were called in.

There was no word on what was in the suitcases, but the man, unidentified by police, was arrested under an antiterrorism statute.

Police asked for help. They appealed for anybody who recognized the four wanted men from their pictures to call investigators, and they asked the public to keep an eye out for the men and to call the police emergency number, and not go near the men, if they spot them.

The man killed by the police at the Stockwell subway station yesterday has not been identified, and police were saying little about the incident. Witnesses said he appeared to be South Asian.

Blair, the commissioner, said, "Any death is tragic," but he added that the man had been "challenged and refused to obey police instructions."

The man had been in a house that was under surveillance because of possible links to Thursday's attacks, police said. When he left the house, surveillance officers followed him to the station.

At 10 a.m. yesterday, London's temperature was approaching 70 degrees, but the man was wearing a thick, winterish coat, police said. That, combined with his behavior and the house that he had been in, added to suspicions.

Police had nothing to say about the shooting from that point, other than to report that the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

One witness said plain-clothes officers were chasing the man, who attempted to jump into the car of the train as its doors closed but was wrestled to the floor just inside its doors.

"I saw them offload five shots into the person on the floor," Mark Whitby, who had been sitting on the rain reading his newspaper, told BBC television. "I saw them kill a man."

A passenger at Stockwell station, Briony Coetsee, told Britain's Press Association, "We were on the Tube when we suddenly heard someone say `Get out, get out' and then we heard gunshots."

Two subway lines, the Victoria and Northern lines, which pass through the Stockwell station, were shut down after the shooting. Together, those lines carry 1.1 million passengers a day.

With those out of operation, commuters packed into already jammed alternative lines, or tried to figure out a bus route, or hoped to get lucky and flag down an available black cab.

The bombings have led to vandalism against mosques, including at least two firebombings, though damage has been minor and no injuries have been reported.

Blair, the commissioner, repeated a call he has made since the first bombs went off July 7, repeatedly insisting that authorities are not focusing on any particular ethnic group.

"We can only defeat this form of terrorism by working with communities," he said.

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