U.K. Police Dispatch Thousands to Guard Transit
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London's top-ranking policeman said he's confident that law enforcement authorities will catch the three remaining suspects in last week's attempted bombings, and he warned that further attacks were still possible. Police say they are in a race against time to identify and locate the three suspected terrorists. The interrogation of the fourth, captured on Wednesday, continues. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from London.
ANTHONY KUHN reporting:
Police remain on a high state of alert. Yesterday some 6,000 uniformed officers were deployed at rail and Underground stations to reassure the public and guard against further attacks. They stopped, searched and questioned many passengers, including some with large bags or backpacks. On a BBC talk show last night, Metropolitan Police Chief Ian Blair expressed confidence that the ongoing manhunt would be a success.
(Soundbite of BBC program)
Chief IAN BLAIR (Metropolitan Police): I'm confident that we will arrest the people responsible for the attempted bombings on the Tube and the bus last week. I'm confident about that. How soon it will be, I don't know, but I'm quite sure that the net is closing.
KUHN: Blair described the investigation as the greatest operational challenge the Metropolitan Police has faced since the Second World War. He said that the investigation was costing Britain around a million dollars a day and that police forces are being stretched thin. Surprisingly, Blair also criticized police handling of the arrest of Yasin Hassan Omar. Police raided his home in Birmingham on Wednesday and subdued him with a stun gun. Blair said that was improper.
Chief BLAIR: It is an incredible risk to use a TASER on a suicide bomber, because the TASER itself could have set it off and, you know, that is not the policy.
KUHN: Omar is still being interrogated at London's high-security Paddington Green police station. Many British Muslims are concerned about the backlash against them that has followed the July 7th bombings. Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Council of Imams and Mosques, says that beyond the investigation, the roots of the violence needed to be addressed.
Mr. ZAKI BADAWI (Council of Imams and Mosques): What we should be targeting and what we are now trying to do is to get at the people themselves, to see where they are, to see who motivated them, to see how we can guide them away from acts of violence of such magnitude that has created complete uncertainty for all of us.
KUHN: Shami Chakrabarti, head of the civil rights group Liberty, warned against blaming immigrants and asylum seekers.
Ms. SHAMI CHAKRABARTI (Liberty): The 7th of July bombers were as British as I am, raised on fish fingers and children's television. There are young men in our society as British as I am who feel so disenfranchised that they are such easy prey for this kind of hatred, and there are no easy answers there. You can build the walls and the immigration control as high as you like, but you cannot keep hatred out that way.
KUHN: Some members of the BBC talk show audience peppered Blair with questions about the shooting death of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes last Friday. One black man in the audience said Menezes' shooting was tantamount to execution.
(Soundbite of BBC program)
Unidentified Man: Had he been a white man traveling that road, he would have been stopped, questioned, and he would never have been shot. He looked the part and, unfortunately, that's what happens when you look the part. You get killed, and it happens far too often with the Metropolitan Police.
KUHN: Britain's Home Office said yesterday that Menezes' student visa had expired and the stamp allowing him to remain in the country was apparently forged. Observers say this may have been why Menezes fled into the Stockwell Underground station when police challenged him. Menezes' funeral will be held in his hometown of Gonzaga,(ph) Brazil, today, and a memorial is also scheduled for Westminster Cathedral in London.
Investigators of the Independent Police Complaints Commission are conducting an inquiry into the shooting. Blair has defended the policy instituted some 18 months ago to shoot to kill suspected suicide bombers. He said it's possible that more innocent people will be shot. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, London.