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British police come under fire for brutally killing innocent man

Hasan Suroor

Police admit mistake, calling the death a tragedy; civil rights activists seek apology

LONDON: The British police have come under fire for brutally killing an innocent man who was in no way connected with Thursday's attempted bombings in London.

There was shock and anger on Saturday as it emerged that the man who was shot dead by policemen in plainclothes in front of terrified commuters at the Stockwell Underground station in south London on Friday was neither carrying a bomb as had been alleged nor was he among the four men suspected to be behind Thursday's incidents.

Scotland Yard said the shooting had been a "tragedy'' which was regretted by the Metropolitan Police.

Stunned eyewitnesses recalled that they saw a man chased by policemen in plainclothes who shot him from point blank range as he stumbled while trying to get on to a train that had just pulled in.

As he tripped and fell, officers pinned him down and pumped at least five bullets into him as passengers watched in horror.

One passenger said he thought the man was shot "eight to nine times'' and the police continued to fire long after he was dead.

Another recalled with horror how the police "bundled'' on top of the man and shot him. "I saw an Asian guy run on to the train hotly pursued by three plainclothes officers. One of them was carrying a black handgun — they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him,'' he said.

One woman broke down and nearly fainted with shock as she saw the victim repeatedly shot.

"I saw the man fall over and then I heard two shots that I believe went into his back,'' said Anthony Larkin who watched the killing from the platform.

Mark Whitby, a passenger widely quoted in the media, said that after the man tripped he was "also pushed to the floor and one of the officers shot him five times.''

In a statement admitting that it had been a mistake, Scotland Yard said: "We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at the Stockwell Underground station by the police on Friday, 22nd July 2005, although he is still subject to formal identification. We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday, 21st July 2005. For somebody to lose his life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."

Even as the independent Police Complaints Commission, which inquires into such cases, said that it would be investigating the murder, civil rights activists and Muslim groups called for an apology. They insisted that the police explain their tactics that, they said, amounted to a covert "shoot-to-kill'' policy.

A leading human rights campaigner said shooting someone dead without prior warning seemed to exceed the notion of "proportionate'' response to a terrorist threat.

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