LONDON – British police arrested a third man in connection with last week’s failed attacks against London’s transit system and said Sunday they are trying to penetrate what they suspect is an al Qaeda network behind the plot.
Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair expressed deep regret to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot dead by police on the subway Friday after he was mistaken for a terrorist. Blair called the killing a “tragedy” but defended officers’ right to use deadly force against suspected terrorists.
The latest arrest was made Saturday near London’s southern Stockwell neighborhood, in Tulse Hill, where de Menezes had lived and near the subway station where he was killed. The man was arrested “on suspicion of the commission, instigation or preparation of acts of terrorism,” said a police spokeswoman on customary condition of anonymity.
Police still are holding two other men arrested in Stockwell on Friday, Blair said. None of their identities has been released.
Police also said they carried out several controlled explosions Sunday to destroy a package found in northwest London that may have been linked to devices used in the botched attacks.
Blair said he suspects an al Qaeda network was involved in last Thursday’s failed attacks. He previously had said al Qaeda probably was linked to the July 7 attacks in London in which four suicide bombers killed 52 people and themselves.
“The way in which al Qaeda operates is not a sort of classic cell structure,” the police chief told Britain’s Sky News television. “It has facilitators, so we’re looking for the bomb makers, we’re looking for the chemists, we’re looking for the financiers, we’re looking for the people who groomed these young people, so it will be a wide network that we’re trying to penetrate.”
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday the recent attacks in London and Egypt appear to be the work of al Qaeda.
Police are looking into possible links between the bombers who took part in the July 7 attacks against three London subway cars and a bus and those involved in the failed bombings last Thursday against identical targets.
The investigation in the failed bombings is focusing on four suspects whose images were captured by closed-circuit television cameras and released Friday.
Blair appealed for help from Britain’s Muslim communities and said police “still are anxious for any sighting of the four individuals.”
In another possible connection, some of last Thursday’s attackers may have visited the same Welsh white-water rafting center as two of the July 7 suicide bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer. The two bombers went rafting there on July 4, according to the National Whitewater Center.
Meanwhile, hundreds of relatives and friends of those killed in the July 7 explosions visited the sites of the attacks Sunday after they attended a briefing on the investigation. Many wept as they laid flowers at the bomb sites.
At the Stockwell station where de Menezes was killed, a tribute to him included flowers, cards, his picture and at least one banner with the Brazilian flag on it.
Muslim leaders, civil rights groups and Brazil’s foreign minister demanded an investigation into the killing. Witnesses said de Menezes, 27, was shot with five bullets fired to his head at point-blank range.
Blair said he recognizes that the shooting is going to be a matter of an investigation.
“I’ve got to be very careful about what I say, what I prejudge,” he said.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who was visiting London, said his government and peo-ple are shocked by the killing.
“We cannot recover the life of the Brazilian citizen who died, but it is very important to know all the details,” Amorim said after meeting a British official. He said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had expressed his regrets in a telephone conversation.
“This is a tragedy,” Blair said of the shooting. “The Metropolitan Police accepts full responsibility for this. To the family, I can only express my deep regrets.”
But he defended the officers’ shooting to kill, saying they did it only when lives were believed to be at risk.
“It is drawn from experience from other countries, including Sri Lanka. The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head,” Blair said. “There is no point in shooting at someone’s chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be,” he said.