London, July 23: Scotland Yard may have made a mistake about the man shot dead by police yesterday morning at Stockwell Underground station in south London, it was revealed today.
The man is not connected to attempted terror attacks on the capital, said a Scotland Yard spokesman.
“For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets,” he said.
The man, described by witnesses as “Asian”, was chased by a group of 20 police officers onto an Underground train, held down and shot five times in the head.
He aroused suspicion by not stopping when challenged, according to the police.
He had emerged from a nearby house that was under surveillance because of a suspected link to Thursday’s attempted bomb attacks on three Tube trains and a bus. The man, whose name has not yet been released, was then followed by surveillance officers.
He is thought to have caught a bus to Stockwell Tube station where he was challenged by officers, who told him to stop.
The man, who is now believed to be of “South American” appearance, then bolted down an escalator, according to witnesses.
Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair had said yesterday that the shooting was “directly linked” to anti-terror operations.
However, in a statement, Scotland Yard said today: “We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at Stockwell Underground station by police on Friday, July 22, although he is still subject to formal identification. We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday, July 21, 2005.”
The statement continued: “The man emerged from a block of flats in the Stockwell area that were under police surveillance as part of the investigation into the incidents on Thursday, July 21. He was then followed by surveillance officers to the Underground station. His clothing and behaviour added to their suspicions.”
The statement added: “The circumstances that led to the man’s death are being investigated by officers from the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards, and will be referred to the IPCC (the Independent Police Complaints Commission) in due course.”
The police watchdog has already announced that there will be an independent investigation into the shooting.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, said: “Our hearts go out to the family of the dead man and to the officers involved in this tragic incident.” No one should rush to judgement.
“In any case of this kind ' especially at a time of heightened tension ' there must be a prompt, comprehensive and independent investigation into what happened.”
She said: “This must cover the relevant guidance, training of officers, as well as the facts of the particular operation. These are knife-edge split second decisions made in moments of grave danger. We have a massive shared interest in the protection of innocent lives.”
Police still have clearance to operate “shoot-to-kill” if they believe they are dealing with suicide bombers.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain expressed its deepest condolences to the family of the “innocent” man who was shot dead.
“While we accept that the police are under tremendous pressure to apprehend the criminals who are attempting to cause carnage on the streets of London it is absolutely vital that utmost care is taken to ensure that innocent people are not killed due to overzealousness,” said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the council.
He said that the council had received numerous calls from distressed British Muslims since the killing in Stockwell. “We have also received several reports of young Muslim men who were going about their everyday business being forced to the ground by plainclothes officers and who are now very fearful.”
He added: “The police also have a duty of care to ensure that they do everything humanly possible to protect innocent members of the public and prevent innocent deaths.”