Muslims fear officers have adopted 'shoot to kill' policy

By Kim Sengupta, Colin Brown, and Jason Bennetto
Published: 23 July 2005

The death at Stockwell station is at the centre of a "shoot-to-kill" controversy after police admitted that the dead man was not one of the suspected bombers.

A Muslim Council of Britain spokesman said: "We are getting phone calls from a lot of Muslims who are distressed about what may be a shoot-to-kill policy." There had been strong cross-party support over the shooting with MPs and the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, defending it as a legitimate way to prevent suicide bombings. But the disclosure from the police that the dead man was not one of the bombers, but instead a suspected associate, is bound to lead to criticism from some senior Muslim figures.

Although the police have not commented in detail on the shooting, they made it clear that they feared the man may have been about to ignite a bomb.

Changes were introduced to the police's shooting policy after the 7 July bombings, with officers being told to aim for the head rather than the chest and go for a kill instead of incapacitation.

Allegations of an official "shoot-to-kill" policy have always been highly emotive. The British military and the RUC were condemned by civil rights activists and nationalists in Northern Ireland over deaths of republicans and there was a massive row when the SAS shot dead three IRA suspects in Gibraltar.

Mr Livingstone, speaking before the police announced that the shot man was not the bomber, said: "If you are dealing with someone who might be a suicide bomber, if they remain conscious they could trigger explosives and therefore overwhelmingly in these circumstances it is going to be a shoot-to-kill policy."

Last night Bob Marshall-Andrews QC, a Labour MP who attacked Tony Blair over the war on Iraq, said it was wrong to draw comparisons between the shooting of the IRA gang and suspected suicide bombers in London.

"What happened on the Rock was an undiluted execution. The IRA didn't blow themselves up together with people standing in front of them. If you believe someone is trapped up with bombs, the police have to shoot."

Gerald Howarth, the shadow Defence Minister, said: "These people attach no value to their own lives, unlike the IRA ... If a police officer sees somebody they believe has explosives attached to them - what do they do? It is an impossible situation."


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