London Subway Rocked by Terrorists’ Blasts Killing 33
A series of seemingly coordinated blasts hit London subways today injuring 90, killing at least two — and done with an MO similar to the March 11, 2004 mass-casualty train bombings in Madrid. It was the worst attack on London since World War II:
A series of explosions struck London’s public transportation system Thursday in what Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) called a coordinated series of “barbaric” terrorist attacks, most likely to coincide with the opening of the G-8 summit in nearby Scotland.
((UPDATE: Death toll is up to 33.))
After several hours where public officials cautioned against reaching conclusions about what caused at least six blasts on subways and buses, Blair gave a brief televised address where he concluded it was a terrorist action.
“It’s important, however, that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people and a desire to impose extremism on the world,” an emotional Blair told the world.
“Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilizations in the world.”
Officials believe the fatality rate will be going up as more info emerges.
UPDATE: The AP reports that a group calling itself Secret Organization â€” al-Qaeda in Europe has claimed responsibility — and warned Italy and Denmark that they may be next if they don’t yank their troops out of Afghanistan:
Der Spiegel magazine reported that the group posted its message on a Web site popular with Islamic militants, which it did not name. It said the group claimed the explosions were in retaliation for Britain’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. The time has come for vengeance against the Zionist crusader government of Britain in response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan,” read the statement, a photograph of which was displayed on Der Spiegel’s Web site.
Here’s the full text of the statement but remember that posting it on a website is not considered confirmation.
In an important sense, this attack is one that has been long predicted. Ever since 911 there have been occasional reports suggesting that terrorists dearly wanted to hit London for a variety or reasons, not the least of which include Great Britain’s role as a strong ally to the U.S. in the war against terrorism and the war in Iraq and it’s role as a European financial hub.
Meanwhile, President Bush has urged Americans to be “extra vigilent.”
Some analyists immediately announced the blast had all the signs of being an Al Qaeda operation, Source One reports:
Apparently coordinated blasts across London’s transport network on Thursday bear similarities to last year’s Madrid bombings and suggest an attack in the style of al Qaeda, security analysts said.
Officially, there was no immediate confirmation from British authorities that they were treating the explosions as an attack by militants. London’s police chief said there were about six blasts.
The use of near-simultaneous attacks to cause maximum damage and panic is a tactic frequently used by al Qaeda, from the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa to the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States with four hijacked airliners in 2001.
Since then, the pattern has been repeated in deadly attacks attributed to al Qaeda or like-minded Islamist militants in Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Saudia Arabia, Turkey and Spain.
The London blasts, at underground stations and on buses, had clear echoes of March 11, 2004, when 10 bombs hidden in sports bags exploded on four packed commuter trains in Madrid at the height of the morning rush hour, killing 191 people.
“There are lots of parallels with the Madrid blast…We have to assume it’s a terrorist attack,” said German security analyst Rolf Tophoven.
“The first thing that’s very obvious is the synchronised nature of the attacks, and that’s pretty classic for al Qaeda or al Qaeda-related organisations,” said Budapest-based security analyst Sebestyen Gorka…..
As with the Madrid attacks, which occurred three days before a general election, the London blasts appeared timed to coincide with a major political event.
They took place as leaders of the Group of Eight nations were meeting on the first full day of a summit in Scotland – an event which required its own massive security operation and drew heavily on police and counter-terrorist resources.
Ireland Online notes that the blasts have tied up transportation in one of the world’s key cities:
The explosions in central London today threw the capitalâ€™s transport network into chaos. The entire Tube system, used by three millions people a day, was suspended while bus services in the centre of London also ceased.
Kingâ€™s Cross, Euston and Liverpool Street main line stations were closed, with operations to injured people being carried out on the Liverpool Street concourse. While some main line services continued to run into London, oter companies were halting trains short of the capital.
Bloomberg reports that there were 7 explosions — and five explosive devices have been found so far on the transportation network.
Witnesses saw the top ripped off a double-decker bus near Russell Square close to King’s Cross train terminal and the twisted wreckage of another in Tavistock Square nearby.
Several underground subway stations also were hit.
“I was on the bus,” said a dazed passenger on one of the buses that was hit. “I looked round and the seats behind me were gone.”
Here’s A TIMELINE of the attacks.
UPDATE: The BBC reports that the system has been shut down and contains this haunting account of the blasts:
Describing the bus blast in Tavistock Square, witness Belinda Seabrook said she saw an explosion rip through the vehicle.
“I was on the bus in front and heard an incredible bang, I turned round and half the double-decker bus was in the air,” she said.
She said the bus had been travelling from Euston to Russell Square and was “packed” with people turned away from Tube stops. “It was a massive explosion and there were papers and half a bus flying through the air.” she said.
One caller to BBC Five Live said his friend had seen “the bus ripped open like a can of sardines”.
Meanwhile, when the news broke New York City officials immediately slated a safety drill:
The drill was launched just hours after news broke that a series of three blasts had ripped through the London underground system and one blast destroyed a double-decker bus, causing numerous injuries and killing at least two.
Members of the National Guard were standing watch during rush hour in Penn Station, according to a Newsday photographer.
An increased number of police officers entered the subway system around 7:30 a.m. to sweep the city’s transit operation.
UPDATE: Now a question has become: how were the bombs set off? On cable TV, radio shows, and on some websites there is growing belief that this could have been the work of suicide bombers. Andrew Sullivan writes:
Just passing along: cell-phones don’t work on the tube, so the likelihood of suicide bombers is that much higher; ditto the bus. The bus behind the one attacked was packed with school-kids.
(SCHOOL KIDS? Yes, that sounds like bravery, Al Qaeda-style..)
Meanwhile, although all signs point to Al Qaeda, some began to put their own political spin on it. Note this comment left on the blog Americablog where a reader suggests it’s a diversionary tactic and manages to blame both Karl Rove and the Jews. The comment itself seems to be a diversionary tactic.
(PLEASE NOTE WE ARE UPDATING AS YOU READ THIS AND HAVE SOME TRANMISSION PROBLEMS)
A CROSS SECTION OF WEBLOGS FOLLOWING THE STORY:
—Oxblog’s Patrick Belton reports from London. A MUST READ! :
— Instapundit has a big roundup which includes links to weblogs that take you to posts from London.
—Jeff Jarvis has some EXCELLENT LINKS to bloggers in London. And he adds this note about how a terrorist event in one part of the world now impacts citizens elsewhere:
As I came toward New York this morning, I looked over at the skyline, as I always do now. This morning, I made sure there was no smoke. I was nervous about taking the train into the city and decided not to go to the World Trade Center today. I also decided to get into the city before 9am, which seems to be the murderers’ witching hour. And when I got to the city, I called my wife to let her know I had arrived safely; she expects that. That is life anywhere in the world in a world of terrorism.
I heard Tony Blair listening to the BBC on my Sirius on the way in and just watched him on Reuters raw video. Every syllable, ever glance communicated his personal devestation.
—James Joyner:”It’s almost inconceivable what could cause six blasts around the transportation infrastructure aside from terrorist attacks. Aside from the coordination involved here, I would naturally suspect anti-trade extremists rather than Islamists, though.”
—Mark In Mexico:”I don’t think the British and Europeans have taken this threat seriously enough, just as we had not prior to 9/11. Now the chickens have come home to roost. It will be interesting to see the British people’s reaction to this. Will they go the way of the Spanish who folded it up after the Madrid railway attacks? Or will the British respond like the Americans and go looking for the ones responsible in their house, where they live, plan and direct these attacks?”
—Bull Moose is a MUST READ in a post titled “We Are All Brits Now.” Here’s part of it (read it all after):
The London explosions are a horrible reminder that we are at war with an insidious force that seeks appeasement from free people. That was the clear intent of last year’s train attack in Madrid. However, Tony Blair is a leader who will not capitulate. He is a model of progressive resolve. All Americans, and particularly progressives, must stand with him and the people he leads.
This is a time that should force our own leaders to acquire perspective. Whatever partisan differences we have between us, our nation continues to face a terrorist threat. Our fiscal priorities must reflect that reality – homeland security remains inadequate and the military is stretched to the limit. This is the true crisis that demands our primary attention.
–Read this HIGHLY COMPELLING diary on Daily Kos about trying to get to work in London today.
—Jesse Taylor:”I doubt there will be any terrorist attacks in America today, but I just can’t stop thinking about the fact that we’re fighting a war in Iraq (unless the reason’s changed again) to draw terrorist attention there rather than the rest of the world. As much incredible bullshit as that is, it was and is a serious line of thought among war supporters, held so strongly that anyone who rejects it when terrorist attacks happen on their home soil is seen as a quitter and an appeaser rather than a sane individual (see: Spain).”
–Michelle Malkin has several posts on the story such as here. But you need to go to the main blog and scroll down since she has SEVERAL posts and updates them constantly.
–Project Nothing has some interesting links, hotline numbers in London, info from friends in London and this chilling commment:”MY FATHER CALLED – HAS CONCERNS ABOUT WORLD SPREAD COORDINATED ATTACKS. Iâ€™d say itâ€™s smart to prepare for it.”
–One blogger from London, Aardvark,JD reports in part (read it all):
I’m stuck in the centre of London today in the middle of the UK first major terrorist attack since 11/9….
Taxi ranks have queues reaching round the block and taxis drivers who pass you on the street with no passengers are chuckling to themselves like they’ve just won the Lottery.
The city is filled with tourists who don’t have the first clue where they are or how to get where they need to be. And, to be frank, I rank among them. I need to be on the other side of the city. I have no map. There is no public transport. I have only a vague idea as to where I am let alone how to get where I’m going.
I’ve taken a short break in an internet cafe within sight of the Houses of Parliament rather than try to fight my way through the crowds.
As I’m in the south of the city at the moment I think I’ll abandon the attempt to get to the north of the city to catch my train home (as I’ve typed this, I’ve heard that the station I needed to get to has closed anyway). I think I’ll go and stay with friends south of London. I’m going to go and see if trains are running to the South.
What a…nightmare. However, compared to the devastation I’m sure the attacks will have caused to some, I’m sure my troubles are a minor inconvenience.
A cross section of other sites include Arthur Chrenkoff, La Shawn Barber, Dean Esmay, Pam’s House Blend, The Command Post, John Hawkins, Jihad Watch, Charging Rino, Gay Orbit, Winds of Change, Balloon Juice, News Hog, Mahablog, Normblog, The Yellow Line, Backcountry Conservative, Scared Monkeys, Slantpoint, Wizbang, Argghhh!
Crooks And Liars, Booker Rising.