LONDON — British police hunting London bombers yesterday admitted killing a Brazilian electrician by mistake — a blunder that dealt a blow to their efforts to track down militants they fear could strike again.
In another development, security sources said investigators had found material linking bombers in both the July 7 attacks, which killed 52 persons, and the failed strike Thursday.
Police expressed regret for having killed the Brazilian man a day earlier and identified the victim as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician who had been living in London for three years.
“For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets,” a police spokesman said on the customary condition of anonymity.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim demanded clarification from Britain about the shooting.
Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission said the killing was a direct consequence of British police officers’ being sent to Israel to receive training on how to prevent suicide bombings.
But former London police chief John Stevens defended the tactics.
“I sent teams to Israel and other countries hit by suicide bombers, where we learned a terrible truth,” he wrote in the News of the World. “There is only one sure way to stop a suicide bomber determined to fulfill his mission — destroy his brain instantly, utterly. That means shooting him with devastating power in the head, killing him immediately.”
The link between the two teams of Muslim bombers involved a whitewater rafting trip attended by members of both bombing teams. This clue was based on evidence discovered in rucksacks left behind by the failed bombers. Detectives believe the trip could have been used as a bonding exercise.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone said the killing was a “human tragedy” that was a consequence of the attacks.
“The police acted to do what they believed necessary to protect the lives of the public,” he said. “This tragedy has added another victim to the toll of deaths for which the terrorists bear responsibility.”
Thousands of officers, meanwhile, fanned out in a huge manhunt that continued yesterday with hopes that the publication of images of four suspected attackers would lead to their capture.
Security alerts kept the city of about 8 million residents on edge.
Police briefly evacuated East London’s Mile End subway station in one such incident, and one witness reported the smell of something burning. Service was suspended on parts of two subway lines, but police said later the incident “turned out to be nothing.”
The mourning continued, with hundreds packing Westminster Cathedral for the funeral Mass of Anthony Fatayi-Williams, a 26-year-old who was among the 52 persons killed by four suicide bombers in the first wave of attacks on July 7.