- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

LONDON Authorities were busy yesterday trying to convince reporters that Britain does not have its own sniper after a news story said six air gun shootings had police fearful of "a copycat attack inspired by the random murders in Washington."

"There's no way we consider it to be a copycat incident. There are no reports of serious injuries," said a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman of the attacks, one of which injured the nose of a member of Parliament.

"It was nothing like the tragedy in your country."

Police are searching for the shooter, who ambushed six persons in south London Oct. 12-16. Only one victim needed to be hospitalized.

Four of the six shootings occurred in the early morning, and police believe all are linked.

However, the spokeswoman said, "This kind of attack is not unusual."

In one of the shootings, a member of the Labor Party, Terry Rooney, 51, was struck in the face by a pellet on his way to work, said the Guardian newspaper, which made the sniper comparison.

"Certainly we're concerned. Air rifles can be serious," the police spokeswoman said. "The 51-year-old could have lost an eye."

Air weapons, which fire lead pellets, accounted for 58 percent of firearm offenses in England and Wales in 2000-2001, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Police around the world are on guard for copycat acts that mirror the 13 random shootings in the greater Washington area this month. John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo are in custody and accused of the attacks, which killed 10.

In Turkey, police organized a team last week to track a gunman who has been firing his own air gun.

"This is about a person who is mentally deranged," Agence France-Presse quoted the governor of Ankara as saying. "The events in the U.S. have really touched him."

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