British police wound man in anti-terror raid

Officials note fear of domestic attack

June 03, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LONDON -- British police officers shot and wounded a 23-year-old man, then arrested him and another man in a counterterrorism raid on a home in East London before dawn yesterday.

The raid, carried out just before 4 a.m., was one of the largest counterterrorism operations since the bombings that killed 56 people, including four bombers, in London in July.

Some police officers wore biochemical protection suits during the raid. Police declined to confirm news reports saying that the target of the raid, a modest rowhouse in the ethnically mixed Forest Gate area, might have been used to make a chemical bomb.

Police shootings are rare in Britain, and yesterday's appeared to be the first in a terrorism-related incident since the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician who was mistaken for a terrorist after the July bombings.

Police did not release the names of the two men arrested yesterday and said the raid was not linked to the July attacks.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission began an immediate inquiry into the shooting. A single shot was fired from a police firearm, it said.

"We can confirm that the injuries to the man are not life-threatening," the commission said in a statement.

About 250 officers surrounded the house in the dark before smashing a window and swarming in. Authorities later built a tentlike structure to prevent evidence at the site from being tainted and to keep the investigation secret.

Peter Clarke, London's highest-ranking counterterrorism police officer, said the raid was planned "in response to specific intelligence."

"The intelligence was such that it demanded an intensive investigation and response," Clarke said.

He did not divulge details or say whether the intelligence reports had proved accurate. The police said the raid was in response to a possible attack in Britain.

Last week, eight people were seized in raids across England. In Manchester, Liverpool and London, 500 officers made arrests under anti-terrorism and immigration laws. Authorities said at the time that the arrests were related to suspected support of terrorists abroad.

Police said yesterday that last week's raids disrupted a "known terrorist group."

After yesterday's raid, armed police officers were posted at the hospital where the wounded man was taken for treatment. He and the other man arrested, who was said to be 20 years old, might have been brothers living with their parents and possibly other family members, news reports said. Neighbors told the Press Association news agency that the family is of Pakistani descent.

Sky News broadcast what it said was an interview with two unidentified friends of the man who was shot. They spoke with their backs to the camera, their heads covered and their faces hidden.

The police "shot an unarmed man because he wanted to try and protect his family," one of the men said.

He called the wounded man "a humble guy" who had gone "to your schools, your workplaces and paid his taxes, and at 4 a.m. the police gave him a present. They gave him a hole in the chest."

Police carried out the raid because "they want to give us Muslims a bad name," the man said.

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