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2 unarmed police officers shot dead in Britain

This is an undated Greater Manchester Police handout phoDale Cregan  issued Tuesday Sept. 18 2012. Two unarmed female police

This is an undated Greater Manchester Police handout photo of Dale Cregan issued Tuesday Sept. 18, 2012. Two unarmed female police officers were fatally wounded Tuesday as they attempted to deal with what appeared to be a routine incident, Greater Manchester Police said. Witnesses reported hearing shots and an explosion at a house in Manchester England. Cregan a 29-year-old man suspected of two murders last month surrendered at a police station shortly after the incident, and was booked on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Greater Manchester Police)

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LONDON — Two unarmed officers were gunned down by a wanted fugitive in the Manchester area of northern England, police said Tuesday, a dramatic shooting which has shocked the country.

Chief Constable Peter Fahy told a news conference that Fiona Bone, 32 — who was in the process of 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 kilometers) from central Manchester.

He said that Dale Cregan, 29, the focus of an intense police manhunt as a suspect in two murders last month, surrendered at a local police station shortly after the incident and was booked on suspicion of murder.

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 the Police Roll of Honor Trust, which tracks such incidents, counts only one deadly shooting against an officer in the past three years.

By contrast, 55 U.S. law enforcement officers were shot to death in 2010 alone, according to FBI figures.

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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