London commuters riding on edge
Plainclothes police engaged in the frenetic hunt for fugitives involved in London's transit bombings pursued a suspect into an Underground...
Los Angeles Times
LONDON — Plainclothes police engaged in the frenetic hunt for fugitives involved in London's transit bombings pursued a suspect into an Underground train yesterday and shot him to death in a melee witnessed by screaming and cowering passengers.
It was not clear whether the man, described as a young Asian wearing a heavy coat despite the summer heat, was one of four who tried to set off backpack bombs on three subway trains and a bus Thursday. Police did not immediately identify the man or say whether he was carrying weapons or explosives.
Officials said plainclothes police followed the man after he left a house that had been under surveillance and tried to stop him as he approached a train station.
Police yesterday also made public security-camera images of the four suspects in Thursday's attacks. They asked the public to help identify and find the men.
A second man was arrested in London today in connection with the bombing attempts..
Scotland Yard said the man was arrested in Stockwell, the south London neighborhood where the shooting occurred and where another suspect was detained yesterday.
The incident heightened London commuters' nervousness about the security of the city's mass-transit system as it slowly recovers from the bomb attacks two weeks ago that killed 56 people and injured more than 700.
Police searched three houses in what Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, called a "very, very fast-moving investigation." The first of the two men arrested was taken into custody at a home near the Underground shooting, and Scotland Yard said he was being held under anti-terrorism laws.
Forensic examination indicated that the unexploded bombs recovered Thursday contained a homemade brew of explosives similar to the July 7 bombs, officials said. The finding reinforced the theory that the same terror network unsuccessfully attempted a follow-up attack Thursday, two senior European police officials said.
The gunfire on London's Underground, commonly known as the Tube, erupted at about 10 a.m. at the Stockwell station in Brixton, a working-class area of south London with a large population of people of Caribbean and African descent. The station is near the Oval station, one of Thursday's bombing sites.
Police said officers followed the man to the Stockwell station from the house that was under surveillance. "His clothing and behavior at the station added to their suspicions," the statement said.
A chase began in the street as undercover officers converged and pursued the suspect into the station, eyewitnesses told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), apparently surprising the uniformed officers guarding the station entrance.
"There were at least 20 of them, and they were carrying big black guns," said Chris Wells, 28, a witness interviewed by The Guardian newspaper. "The next thing I saw was this guy jump over the barriers, and the police officers were chasing after him."
Mark Whitby, a commuter, told BBC television that he was reading a newspaper when the fugitive burst into his subway car with police on his heels. Witnesses described the man as a stocky young Asian with a shaved head and short beard, wearing a baseball cap and a padded, winter-style coat.
Whitby said a single officer opened fire at close range.
Whitby said the suspect did not appear to be carrying anything, but looked as if he "might have had something concealed underneath" his coat, "which looked sort of out of place with the weather we have been having, the sort of hot, humid weather."
In the moments before the suspect was shot, Whitby recalled, he "looked like a cornered fox. He looked petrified."
Police expressed regret about the death, which was being investigated by an internal-affairs division. But Blair said the suspect had resisted police and left them no choice.
Muslim representatives expressed concern that the shooting marked a change of policy in the use of lethal force.
"We understand there might have been reasons to do this, but we need to know in what context this man was shot and if it's true he was shot five times," said Muhammad Abdul Bari, deputy secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, a coalition of prominent mainstream organizations. "Normally in this country, this doesn't happen."
Shootings by police are rare in Britain, but police are on maximum alert because they think terrorists are at large and ready to strike again.
Andy Hayman, assistant police commissioner for special operations, said officers backed by dogs and bomb squads carried out three raids, including one on a house in west London where they tossed a tear-gas canister through the front door.
A news conference yesterday became the stage for the dramatic unmasking of the four suspects in Thursday's attacks, thanks to London's network of closed-circuit television cameras.
The most distinct and powerful image came from the Oval station, south of the Thames near Stockwell: It showed a shaven-headed, solidly built young man in a dark sweatshirt with the words "New York" on the chest as he ran through what appeared to be a station corridor. The sweatshirt later was recovered in the Brixton neighborhood, Hayman said.
Another image, taken aboard a double-decker bus, was a close-up of an apparently middle-age man with a mustache. He wore a white baseball cap and gray T-shirt with a palm-tree logo. He allegedly carried a bomb in a backpack bearing the logo Fitness First, a chain of health clubs, and attempted to detonate it when the bus was in the Hackney neighborhood, authorities said.
The pictures of the suspects varied in quality and clarity.
In the July 7 blasts, three of the dead bombers were Britons from Pakistani immigrant families who lived around the northern city of Leeds, police say. The fourth was a Jamaican-born British convert to Islam who lived north of London.
Investigators think the dead bombers belonged to a network overseen by al-Qaida operatives based in Pakistan with contacts in Britain and North America.
Hayman provided more detail yesterday about the bombings, which did not cause casualties because the bombs did not fully explode.
"Initial forensic examination indicates that a bomb partially detonated at each of the four sites," Hayman said. "At this stage it is believed that the devices consisted of homemade explosives and were contained in dark-colored bags or rucksacks."
Investigators do not yet know how the bombs were detonated, Hayman said.
He called the explosives "homemade," a description consistent with statements by U.S. and European investigators that the bombs contained triacetone peroxide, or TATP, a volatile explosive brew used July 7.
Hayman did not expand on witness accounts indicating that some of the bombers may have been intent on carrying out suicide attacks.
Abisha Moyo, an immigrant from Zimbabwe, said he spoke to the Shepherd's Bush bomber in the moments after Thursday's explosion. After hearing a loud bang in the subway car, Moyo saw a young man lying prone with smoke coming out of the backpack he wore.
"I wasn't sure what had happened to him and thought he might have been shot," Moyo, 28, told the Daily Mail newspaper. "I went up to him and said, 'Are you all right, mate?' But he just ignored me and kept his eyes shut. ... He looked very dazed and confused and very shaken."
Moyo said he realized he was face-to-face with a bomber when he spotted wires protruding from the T-shirt of the man, whom he described as about 19, of mixed race and wearing a cap, blue T-shirt and jeans, according to the newspaper.
The man fled through an emergency exit and jumped down onto the tracks, Moyo said.
Information from The Washington Post is included in this report.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.