/ 7 July 2005

London attacks ‘in the name of Islam’

At least 37 people were killed and about 700 injured after four bombs ripped through London’s underground network and tore the roof off a bus during Thursday-morning rush hour, police said.

No warning was given ahead of the attacks — the deadliest terrorist incident in the capital in recent years — and police are investigating claims that an al-Qaeda-linked group was involved.

Police confirmed 35 deaths in the three tube blasts, and two further fatalities on a double-decker bus gutted by a bomb. Another person died later in hospital. The London ambulance service said it had treated 45 people with serious or critical injuries, including burns and amputations, and another 300 people with minor injuries..

The death toll could be at least 50, according to the French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who was quoting a conversation he had held with UK home secretary, Charles Clarke.

“I’ve spoken to the British interior minister twice today… He told me that the provisional toll was 50 dead, 300 wounded, including 50 very seriously,” Sarkozy said on France 2 television.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday the perpetrators of the deadliest peacetime attacks in Britain’s history acted “in the name of Islam”.

“We know that these people act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law-abiding people who abhor terrorism every bit as much as we do,” Blair said in a televised address to the nation.

The city’s deputy police chief, Brian Paddick, told a joint press conference in London that four devices were involved in Thursday’s incidents.

“The police service received no warning about these attacks,” he said, noting that the authorities have also received no claims of responsibility.

Seven people were killed in a first explosion in an underground railway tunnel near Moorgate on the edge of London’s financial district, 21 in a second near King’s Cross and another five at Edgware Road station in west London, Paddick said.

An unknown number of people also died in the bus blast, he added.

World leaders shocked

Leaders from around the world expressed shock and anger over the deadly blasts as well as their determination to crush the terrorist threat.

A group calling itself the “Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda in Europe” has posted a claim of responsibility for the series of blasts in London, saying they were in retaliation for Britain’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Group of Eight (G8) most-industrialised nations declared the “barbaric” London bombings to be attacks on the civilised world and said they will stand together to defeat deadly extremism.

“We condemn utterly these barbaric attacks,” the G8 said in a statement read by the visibly shaken summit host, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, before he returned to London.

“We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism. This is not an attack on one nation, but on all nations and on civilised people everywhere,” Blair said, flanked by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, as well as those of five emerging nations.

As condolences poured in from around the globe, Nato secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer condemned the “appalling attacks” and said the alliance will not waver in its fight against militants.

“I know I speak on behalf of all Nato allies when I express our sympathy for and solidarity with the British people … There can be no justification for such heinous crimes,” he said.

“I condemn in the strongest terms these attacks, which underline the need for the international community and members of the alliance to remain united in the fight against terrorism.”

The European Union called the blasts an “attack on democracy” and the “fundamental freedoms” that are at the heart of the 25-nation bloc.

“This is an attack on the people of Britain, it is an attack on democracy and it is an attack on the fundamental freedoms which go to the heart of the European Union,” EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement at the G8 summit.

US President George Bush said on Thursday from the G8 summit that he had directed US security operations in the US to be “extra vigilant as our folks start heading to work”.

He condemned the attacks, and contrasted the work of the G8 leaders in Scotland to the death and terror in the streets of London.

“We got people working here to relieve the world of poverty [and seeking] ways to have a clean environment, and on the other hand, people intent on killing other people,” he said.

He said there is “such evil” in the hearts of the terrorists “that they will take innocent lives”.

“We will not yield to the terrorists. We will find them and bring them to justice,” he said. The “ideology of hope and compassion” will win out over this “ideology of hate”.

The fatal explosions came as the British capital was still in the afterglow of winning its bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The chief executive of the campaign, Keith Mills, said the Olympic celebrations will now be put on hold, adding that his team is “completely and utterly devastated”.

“This is our town, our city, our home; we are praying for the people who have been affected,” he said.

Reaction from around the world

London mayor Ken Livingstone said there is nothing terrorists can do to destroy the city’s principles of freedom and harmony.

“Nothing you do, no matter how many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our cities where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another,” Livingstone told reporters in Singapore, where the Olympic announcement was made on Wednesday.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II said she was “deeply shocked” by the wave of terrorist attacks, and sent her sympathy to those affected.

“The dreadful events in London this morning have deeply shocked us all,” the queen said in a statement. “I know I speak for the whole nation in expressing my sympathy for all those affected, the relatives of the killed and injured.

“I have nothing but admiration for the emergency services as they go about their work.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on all countries to unite in a war against terrorism after the “inhuman” attacks in London, the Kremlin press office said.

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the deadly bombings in London, saying it regards any act of terrorism as “a threat to peace and security”.

The resolution “condemns without reservation the terrorist attacks in London on July 7 2005, and regards any act of terrorism as a threat to peace and security”.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer expressed “horror and revulsion” at the attacks in London.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern issued a statement from the Vatican to condemn the bombings as an “appalling outrage” and to offer condolences to Britain.

The deadly explosions that hit London prove that terrorism is a global plague that can strike anywhere, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said.

“What is happening in Iraq can happen in any country,” said Talabani, whose country is the scene of daily insurgent bombings.

SA government condemns attack

South African President Thabo Mbeki and his government have also condemned Thursday’s attacks in London.

“As South Africa, we join the rest of the international community in condemning any acts of terrorism,” Mbeki’s spokesperson Bheki Khumalo said from Scotland, where Mbeki is attending the G8 summit.

“We believe there is no reason for anyone to resort to these kinds of things and kill innocent people. The sanctity of human life is something all of us must hold very dearly.”

This applies even more at a time when leaders of the world’s rich nations are gathered to deal with issues of “global apartheid” and poverty, Khumalo said.

Important issues such as climate change, poverty and underdevelopment, especially in Africa, should not now be put on the back burner.

Cities on alert

Security was stepped up in New York on Thursday, with an increased police presence on the transport system following the London explosions.

“Security has been tightened in sensitive areas … around tunnels and bridges, as well as the subways and buses,” a police spokesperson said.

The nationwide US rail system, Amtrak, said it raised its security alert level after the blasts occurred.

Spanish authorities were on maximum alert in view of possible terrorist attacks, the interior ministry said.

Madrid’s rail network was targeted in an apparently similar attack when Islamists bombed four commuter trains in March last year, killing 191 people.

Transportation officials in Canada’s biggest city, Toronto, urged subway crews and bus operators to remain vigilant following the London blasts.

The Czech interior ministry ordered police to step up patrols of the nation’s railways and Prague’s subway system.

In France, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced that he had ordered an increase in the country’s anti-terror alert level to red, the second-highest rating.

Security was especially tight around the British embassy in Paris, as well as in Paris area airports and rail stations for passengers travelling to Britain.

In Moscow, officials raised security in the metro system, which has been the target of several attacks in recent years. In February last year, a suicide bomb attack left 42 people dead.