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British admit mistake in shooting

Slain man not linked to attacks, police say

LONDON -- British police acknowledged yesterday that the man plainclothes officers shot and killed in an Underground station Friday as commuters watched in horror was not in any way connected to the failed attacks on London's transportation system the day before.

Scotland Yard released a statement expressing regret for the shooting of the man, identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician from Brazil, and called it a ''tragedy."

The shooting put London's intense manhunt for the bombers -- and the apparent activation of a ''shoot-to-kill" policy by law enforcement -- into sharp relief and raised questions about how authorities are balancing public safety and civil rights amid the new specter of suicide bombings.

In a jittery British capital where the four suspected bombers remained at large, police officers, counterterrorism investigators, and bomb squads carried out several raids and detained two more men for questioning in connection with the attacks on Thursday and the deadly bombings of July 7.

Police reported what they described as a ''suspect package" had been found by a member of the public yesterday morning in the bushes of a park in Northwest London. It was being investigated by bomb specialists and a forensic team.

A police statement said ''the object may be linked to devices found at the four locations" of the attempted bombings Thursday on three Underground trains and a double-decker bus.

Police officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there was mounting evidence that directly linked the four bombers who detonated but failed to ignite the four bombs on Thursday to the four British men who carried out suicide bombings July 7, which killed 56 people, including the bombers, and wounded more than 700.

Four men who fled after Thursday's attempted bombings were photographed on closed-circuit television cameras and their images were plastered on wanted posters around the city.

The frantic pace of what is being described by police as the largest investigation in the city's history has raised concerns among the Muslim community and civil rights groups that understandably anxious law enforcement officials may be undercutting public confidence in policing at a time when they are appealing to the public for help in confronting terrorism.

The shooting Friday morning in a busy Underground station of a man who later was found to have nothing to do with the bombers has confirmed some of those fears. A Brazilian news agency and the Brazilian Embassy in London confirmed that de Menezes was the shooting victim and said he was a Brazilian citizen who had lived in London for three years.

Police said yesterday in a statement that he emerged from a house in South London that was under surveillance in connection with the attempted bombings. He had entered the Stockwell station by jumping a turnstile.

He was confronted by police but failed to stop, according to the police account. Terrified commuters who watched the shooting described in detail to the British media how as many as 20 plainclothes officers pursued the man, who was wearing a bulky coat, through the station before he was tripped up and then shot by one of the officers up to five times.

Brazilian media reported that de Menezes came from the small city of Gonzaga, some 500 miles northeast of Sao Paulo in the state of Minas Gerais. The reports said he had been in London for three years and that his family was Roman Catholic. ''He spoke English very well, and had permission to study and work there," de Menezes's cousin, Maria Alves, told the O Globo Online website from her home in Sao Paulo.

When asked if he had become Muslim in Britain, Agostino Ferreira Rosa, a policeman in Gonzaga said, ''According to his family, he had nothing to do with Muslims or Islamism."

The shooting was under investigation by police and a parliamentary committee on police standards. It remained unclear which branch of British law enforcement the officer who shot de Menezes was assigned to. Policing specialists said that it was likely he was one of Scotland Yard's specialist firearms officers, or a member of a special counterterrorism branch of the military. In British policing, officers traditionally do not carry guns. But special plainclothes units appear to be increasingly becoming armed.

More than a year ago, British police were empowered with rules of engagement while responding to suspected suicide bombers, said Mike Granatt, former head of emergency security planning for the British government. He said the former rules of engagement, which required officers to shoot at the body of a suspect to disable them, had been changed to permit them to shoot at the suspect's head if there were reasonable suspicion that the suspect was a bomber who could detonate an explosive while wounded.

A similar counterterrorism strategy, which became known as the ''shoot-to-kill" policy, was used during the height of the Irish Republican Army's bombing campaign in the 1970s. It resulted in the fatal shootings of several innocent people and brought fierce criticism from human rights lawyers and activists who succeeded in effectively ending the policy.

Azzam Tamimi, director of the Muslim Association of Britain, sharply criticized the policy and Friday's shooting, saying he could not imagine how a restrained man could be a threat. ''It doesn't matter whether he is a Muslim or not, he is a human being," Tamimi said.

In Stockwell, one of London's many ethnically and religiously mixed neighborhoods, residents nervously eyed police units who have cordoned off several streets while a forensic team carried out a search of a house in a public housing complex.

Mustafa Mudawi, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who works as a chef, was playing cards with a friend at the Eritrean Community Center. ''Terrorism is everywhere now. It's happening where I'm from in Egypt and it's happening right here," he said, referring to yesterday's bombings that killed 88 in a Red Sea resort in Egypt.

Abdul Ismael, 40, who came to London from Somalia 15 years ago, said Muslims have been shouldering a heavy burden of suspicion in the past two weeks. ''When I go on the bus or the train, I feel it. If I am carrying a bag, I feel it more," he said.

''This was an innocent person shot and we should use this to stop and say, what is this terrorism doing to all of us?"

Outside the Stockwell Underground where de Menezes was shot, Anthony Robinson, 20, a British subject whose parents come from Barbados, said he felt de Menezes was more a victim of the chaos sown by terrorism than a victim of overzealous policing.

''Everybody is scared. That was someone's life that got taken, another victim of terrorism," Robinson said.

As he waited for a bus to go to work as a retail sales assistant, he added, ''This is their plan. The terrorists want to scare us so that we turn on each other. . . . We can't let that happen."

Material from wire services was included in this report.

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