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Two unarmed police officers shot dead in Britain

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | 3:59 PM    

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LONDON, England (AP) — A wanted fugitive gunned down two unarmed officers in the Manchester area of northern England on Tuesday, police said. 

The dramatic shooting shocked the country, but a top officer dismissed calls to issue his force with more firearms.

Chief Constable Peter Fahy told a news conference that Fiona Bone — a 32-year-old who was planning her wedding — and Nicola Hughes, 23, died shortly after the gunman opened fire and set off a grenade in Hattersley, a suburban area about 10 miles (16 kilometres) from central Manchester.

The man alleged to have carried out the killings, 29-year-old Dale Cregan, surrendered at a local police station shortly after the incident and was booked on suspicion of murder. Cregan had already been the focus of an intense police manhunt as a suspect in two murders last month.

Fahy said that Cregan, or an associate, had telephoned police reporting a burglary Tuesday morning and the two officers responded. "When they arrived, it appears then that Cregan emerged into the road and killed these two officers," Fahy said, adding that the man's motive was "impossible to fathom."

Fatal gun attacks on police are a rarity in Britain, where firearms are tightly controlled and few officers carry deadly weapons. Britain's Home Office said it doesn't compile figures on the number of officers killed in the line of duty, but Steve Lloyd, who manages the Police Roll of Honor Trust — a charity devoted to fallen policemen and women — said that five officers had been shot dead in the past decade.

By comparison, 544 US law enforcement officers were shot to death in roughly the same period, according to figures compiled by the FBI.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the Manchester shootings "a shocking reminder of the debt we owe to those who put themselves in danger to keep us safe and secure," while Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe described the incident as a "horrific attack."

Deadly gun attacks by criminals or terrorists occasionally lead to calls for more armed police, but Fahy batted those away Tuesday.

"We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing," Fahy said. "We know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot dead."

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