American Policy Roundtable

Terrorists Strike London With Series of Blasts
Source: Fox News


LONDON — 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.

At least 40 people were reported dead and at least 300 others were wounded, according to U.S. officials and London hospitals.

After several hours during which public officials cautioned against reaching conclusions about what caused at least seven 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."

G-8 leaders later condemned the attacks.

"There have been a number of dreadful incidents across London today," said Home Secretary Charles Clarke (search), Britain's top law enforcement officer. He said there were "terrible injuries."

The U.S. State Department said there are no reports yet of Americans hurt in the blasts, but officials cautioned that information is very preliminary and hard to come by with communication outages.

The State Department has set up a task force and call center to deal with concerns of those with relatives and friends in London. The number is 1-888-407-4747.

Unknown Terror Group Claims Responsibility

A previously unknown group, "Secret Group of Al Qaeda's Jihad in Europe," claimed responsibility in the name of Al Qaeda for the blasts, saying they were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group claimed the attack in a Web site posting and warned Italy and Denmark to withdraw troops from those two countries. Arabic satellite station Al Jazeera also reported that it had received a phone call from the group claiming responsibility.

The claim could not be verified.

A statement from the group was published on a Web site popular with Islamic militants.

"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," said the statement, which was translated by The Associated Press in Cairo. "The heroic mujahedeen carried out a blessed attack in London, and now Britain is burning with fear and terror, from north to south, east to west."

An explosion destroyed a double-decker bus near Russell Square not long after several blasts were reported on London subways, police said. A witness said the entire top deck of the bus was destroyed.

"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," Belinda Seabrook told Press Association, the British news agency.

She said the bus was packed with people.

"It was a massive explosion and there were papers and half a bus flying through the air," she said.

One Sky News reporter in Russell Square reported that "body after body" is being pulled from the Russell Square tube station as ambulances show up. Doctors apparently are wandering around in orange suits going into the tube tunnels. Some of the wounded are exiting the station covered in silver blankets; many stretchers are being carried out.

One witness, Darren Hall, said some passengers emerging from an evacuated subway station had soot and blood on their faces. He told BBC TV that he was evacuated along with others near the major King's Cross station and only afterward heard a blast.

One Sky News reporter covering Scotland Yard said sources told him there are indications that one bus explosion was caused by a homicide bomber.

Officials shut down the entire underground network after the explosions. Initial reports blamed a power surge.

The attacks came a day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics (search) and as the G-8 summit (search) was getting underway in Scotland.

A spokesman for the Olympic committee said it still has full "full confidence" in London as the host of the 2012 Games.

G-8 Leaders Stand United Against Terrorism

Blair, who was hosting the world's most powerful industrial leaders at Gleneagles, Scotland, said he would leave the G-8 summit for awhile to meet with police and other officials but said the rest of the leaders would remain. The G-8 gathering is focusing on climate change and aid for Africa -- but Iraq has largely been left off the agenda.

"Each of the countries around that [G-8] table have experience with the effects of terrorism and all of the leaders ... share our complete resolution to defeat this terrorism," Blair said in his address Thursday.

"It's particularly barbaric this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa, the long-term problems of climate change and the environment," he said.

The G-8 leaders later issued a statement of their own regarding the attacks. Blair, flanked by President George Bush on one side and French President Jacques Chirac on the other, read the statement on a stage full of the other G-8 leaders in a sign of solidarity.

"Those responsible have no respect for human life. We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation but on all nations and on civilized people everywhere. We will not allow violence to change our societies or our values, nor will we allow it to stop the work of this summit," the statement read.

"The terrorists will not succeed. Today's bombings will not weaken in any way our resolve to uphold the most deeply held principles of our societies and to defeat those who would impose their fanaticism and extremism on all of us. We shall prevail and they shall not."

Blasts Hit Buses, Subway System

Police said incidents were reported at the Aldgate station near the Liverpool Street railway terminal, Edgware Road and King's Cross in north London, Old Street in the financial district, Russell Square in central London, near the British Museum, Aldgate Station and Leicester Square, which is the equivalent of New York City's Times Square. A police official also told reporters there was an incident on a bus in Tavistock Place.

London Ambulance Service said several vehicles had been dispatched to the area near Liverpool Street station.

Bradley Anderson, a subway passenger, told Sky News that "there was some kind of explosion or something" as his train reached the Edgware Road station in northeast London.

"Everything went black and we collided into some kind of oncoming train," Anderson said.

Simon Corvett, 26, who was on an eastbound train from Edgware Road station, said: "All of the sudden there was this massive, huge bang."

"It was absolutely deafening and all the windows shattered," he said. "There were just loads of people screaming and the carriages filled with smoke.

"You could see the carriage opposite was completely gutted," he said. "There were some people in real trouble."

Home Secretary Clarke, in a later address before English lawmakers, said above-ground train service is subject to "substantial delays," but airports are operating normally.

"People are strongly advised not to travel into central London as the emergency services must be allowed to work as effectively as they can," Clarke said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush had been briefed but offered no other details. Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur said that Bush's presence had agents monitoring the situation in London, but that the investigation was being left to British authorities.

U.S. officials said they had no intelligence that suggests similar attacks are planned for the United States; there are no plans currently to raise the terror alert system. There also are no plans now for the president to return to Washington.

The Homeland Security Department asked authorities in major cities as well as passengers to continue being alert to any suspicious activities.

Bomb-sniffing dogs and armed police officers were sent to patrol Washington's subways and buses Thursday. About 1.2 million people a day ride Washington's buses and trains.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official said recent intelligence indicated that London was considered a prime target for Islamic extremists in part because Al Qaeda was having difficulty getting people into the United States.

Candace Smith, spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said security in Washington's transit systems was stepped up "immediately" in response to the rush-hour explosions in London.

Liz Kirkham, spokeswoman for Tayside Police Force, which covers the Gleneagles area, said no additional security precautions were being taken at the summit as a result of the blasts, as substantial measures had already been put in place.

Despite early reports that British police warned the Israeli Embassy in London of such possible attacks just before the first explosion, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel was not warned about possible terror attacks in London.

"There was no early information about terrorist attacks," Shalom told Israel Army Radio later. "After the first explosion an order was given that no one move until things become clear. "

Israel was holding an economic conference in a hotel over the London subway stop where one of the blasts occurred. Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to attend the conference, but "after the first explosion our finance minister received a request not to go anywhere," Shalom said.