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London Bombings

July 22, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT
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SIMON ISRAEL: The man shot dead by police marksmen today is not one of these four, captured on CCTV just before or just after attempts were made to detonate the bombs on three tube trains and a bus.

The images were produced at the first police press conference on the investigation 26 hours on. The first picture was connected to the rucksack bomb on the northern line at Oval Station.

SPOKESMAN: Shows a man running away from the northern line at the Oval underground station at approximately 12:34 hours yesterday. We believe this man had traveled northbound on the northern line from Stockwell underground station to the Oval.

SIMON ISRAEL: After the man left the station, eyewitness reports say he ran towards the park. Police found his dark top with New York across the front half a mile away at Cowley Road.

The second image is of a man leaving Warren Street Station, at 12:39, just minutes after another rucksack bomb was left in carriage on a northbound Victoria line train. The third was taken at just after 20 past 12. It’s of a man with a rucksack packed with explosives on his back. He’s standing on the platform at Westbourne Park, waiting to board a westbound Hammersmith and City line train.

SPOKESMAN: We believe he traveled westbound on the Hammersmith and City line to Shepherd’s Bush underground station where he ran from the station. He was wearing a dark shirt and trousers and was later reported to be wearing a white vest.

SIMON ISRAEL: The fourth image is of a man on the Number 26 bus in East London just before 1:00 yesterday, and soon after the lethal rucksack, which ultimately failed to explode, had been left on the top deck at the back of the bus. The police appeal for information comes with a warning that these men are considered highly dangerous.

ANDY HAYMAN: Anyone who has information about where these men currently are, you should immediately call 999 and ask for urgent police response. The public are asked not to approach them.

SIMON ISRAEL: Police also want people to use the antiterrorist hotline for information on the suspects’ identities and backgrounds. Detectives are still working on the similarities between yesterday and the suspected suicide bombings a fortnight ago. But the hunt for these four is being concentrated in London. Several hundred officers supported by firearms units have been deployed across the capital.

JIM LEHRER: Terence Smith has more on this story.

TERENCE SMITH: With us tonight from London is Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post. Craig, welcome again this evening. Is there any late word on the identity of the man that police shot today?

CRAIG WHITLOCK: No, there’s not, Terence. We’re still trying to figure out who he is. We do know that police say they were staking out residents in the Stockwell District near a subway stop, which is where this man came out of the residence. And they followed him into the tube, into the subway system.

This is also the area where one of the un-detonated bombs was placed yesterday, near the Oval Tube stop. So this is in that same area, and clearly police were looking for people. And this was somebody they had their eye on. But they have not formally identified him as yet.

TERENCE SMITH: Is there any information as to whether he was today carrying explosives or anything else suspicious?

CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, the police have not said if he was carrying any explosives or anything like that. They did describe and witnesses confirmed that he was wearing what appeared to be some sort of heavy, padded coat. Now it is July here and while it’s not as hot as in the United States, certainly that’s something that police have been told to keep their eye out for, anybody riding around on the subways or the buses that’s dressed in unusually baggy clothing that isn’t suitable for the weather.

And this person seemed to fit that bill. And certainly they were — I think there’s no doubt that the police were concerned that this man was carrying explosives. But again they have not specified whether he in fact was or not.

TERENCE SMITH: But running him down and shooting him, this is an unusual police action in Britain, is it not?

CRAIG WHITLOCK: It’s very unusual here. I think it’s very fair to say that people here were very startled and shocked when they heard the news of this. Part of that is, of course, the idea that there may have been another attempted bombing on the subway.

People are, understandably, very jittery about that. But the idea that there was a police shooting I think it’s, again, starting to sink in with people here in London that what they’re going through is something that, you know, is very dangerous and could stay with them for a while. These are not events that they’re used to seeing and hearing and reading about, especially not in the space of a few weeks.

TERENCE SMITH: What are the rules of engagement for British police in situations like this? And have those rules changed in any way because of these bombings?

CRAIG WHITLOCK: No, they haven’t changed because of the bombings. I think it’s — while police shootings here are very rare, I think, again, it’s the same guiding principles you might find in the United States or other countries.

If police are armed and they’re confronted with a suspect who they judge to represent an imminent and lethal danger to the public around that suspect, they’re authorized to use deadly force. Not every police officer in London carries a weapon. In fact, very few carry firearms. It’s usually special squads who are in dangerous situations or out for dangerous suspects.

In this case, that’s what appeared to be going on. These were plain-clothed officers who were staking out a home in the Stockwell area. They were looking for people who were associated or suspected to be suicide bombers. So, you know, understandably this is a very dangerous situation and when this gentleman was running away through the subway, you know, you can imagine the concerns that were going through these officers’ minds.

Now, of course, there will be a thorough investigation, but witnesses clearly appeared to be alarmed as well. They were worried that something serious was going on and this man was running away, was running away from the officers through the subway, again, a repeat of what happened yesterday and two weeks ago.

TERENCE SMITH: Well, you mentioned people being startled by this. What’s the atmosphere in London tonight?

CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, I think people are trying to get along with their lives. But, again, this is sinking in, I think, by the day, the sense of vulnerability among people in London. They’ve been told about the threat of terror attacks for many years now. This is not a theoretical problem for them.

They sort of feared that something like this would happen. And, of course, we had the bombings two weeks ago, which brought that home. Then what happened yesterday, I think, really brought that to another level. People realized this wasn’t a passing thing — that this threat was going to stay with them here for a while, for the foreseeable future.

Then, of course, you have a deadly shooting on the subway today and people are starting to wonder, you know, how long is this going to go on? When is the threat going to be encircled to the point where they feel like they can get back with their normal lives again? But it’s difficult. It’s difficult here.

TERENCE SMITH: Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post, thanks very much for joining us.

CRAIG WHITLOCK: Thank you.