London, July 22: A man, said by passengers to be “Asian”, was pinned down on the floor of an Underground train at Stockwell station in south London today and shot through the head five times by plainclothes policemen hunting for the London bombers.
“This sort of thing happens only in Hollywood movies,” exclaimed a TV journalist.
It seems British Pakistanis determined to introduce suicide bombings in London are now up against a police shoot-to-kill policy.
Initial reports had suggested that the dead man was a suicide bomber, one of the four being hunted from yesterday when devices which did not explode were left on three Underground trains and a bus in east London.
But since police have released CCTV pictures of four men they want to question in connection with yesterday’s attacks, it seems unlikely the man shot dead was one of them.
Sources said the shooting was done by a special anti-terrorist unit at Scotland Yard known as SO19.
The identity of the dead man was not disclosed when Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, briefed journalists today.
He would only say that the shooting was “directly linked” to anti-terror operations. “The man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions,” he said.
Chris Wells, a 28-year-old company manager, said he saw police officers rushing into the station as the man they were chasing jumped over the barriers.
“There were at least 20 of them and they were carrying big black guns. The next thing I saw was this guy jump over the barriers and the police officers were chasing after him and everyone was just shouting ‘get out, get out’.”
Another witness, Mark Whitby, saw the shooting at close range. He said: “An Asian guy ran on to the train. As he ran, he was hotly pursued by what I knew to be three plainclothes police officers.
“He sort of tripped but they were hotly pursuing him and couldn’t have been more than two or three feet behind him at this time. He half-tripped, was half-pushed to the floor,” said Whitby.
“One of the police officers was holding a black automatic pistol in his left hand. They held it down to him and unloaded five shots into him. I saw it. He’s dead, five shots, he’s dead.”
Whitby added that the man did not seem to be carrying a weapon or wearing a rucksack. “He looked like a Pakistani but he had a baseball cap on, and a thickish coat.”
He went on: “It was a coat like you would wear in winter. Maybe he might have had something concealed under there. But it looked out of place in the weather we’ve been having.”
The Muslim Council of Britain said Muslims were concerned there was a “shoot-to-kill” policy in operation.
Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman, said Muslims were “jumpy and nervous”.
Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University said today’s actions by the police appeared to have parallels with the “very strong” methods used by Israeli security forces and US troops in Iraq.
More reports on Page 4