Thursday, July 07, 2005

# Posted 5:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

THERE WAS AN apparent terrorist attack on London this morning, with explosions on the Underground at the Aldgate, and apparently also Liverpool Street and Edgeware Road, tube stations and a double-decker bus filled with passengers diverted from the Underground destroyed in Russell Square and a second attacked in Tavistock Place. This blog has a number of friends who commute daily on these routes; they and all Londoners are painfully in our thoughts.

UPDATE: Transport Police are currently describing incidents as having taken place at the Aldgate, Edgware Road, King's Cross, Old Street and Russell Square stations. There are also reports of two trains colliding near King's Cross. The first waves of speculation have connected the attacks to yesterday's announcement awarding the city the 2012 Olympics. A caller to BBC Five described the Russell Square bus as ripped open like a can of sardines and bodies everywhere".

The Prime Minister has left the G-8 summit in Gleneagles to return to London. His statement: 'It's particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long-term problems of climate change and the environment. Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks, it is also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G8. ... It's important however that those engaged in terrorism realise 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 in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world. (Full statement).

Laura Matthews, a press officer at Universities UK, which has offices in Tavistock Square, told the Guardian she had seen bodies lying around the bus explosion, some of them without arms or legs. A passenger on the train that exploded at Edgware Road also was quoted, by the Press Asssociation, as saying he had seen several bodies in the wreckage. (Guardian story).

The London Underground system has been shut down entirely, in a move thought to be unprecedented. The FTSE 100 index has plunged this morning by over 200 points. (Times) In government response, the Cobra committee of senior civil emergency ministers has met, and a Commons statement is expected later today. Cobra has met on only four previous occasions; it receives its name from the room in Downing Street where its meetings take place, Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. The committee can call on any minister or senior civil servant to take part, as well as fire, police and ambulance chiefs, military commanders and the heads of the security and intelligence services MI5 and MI6; it is supported by a permanent Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office; and it acts as a centre of expertise for emergency planning, produces regular assessments of potential crises and runs exercises to test the authorities' readiness to respond. (BBC)

CNN is reporting that the emergency services have successfully removed all survivors from Kings Cross tube stop, leaving a number of dead below ground "in the double digits." (CNN) Police have found traces of explosives in one of the six presently confirmed blast locations. Home Secretary Charles Clarke is identifying six explosion sites at the moment: at the Edgware Road, Moorgate, King's Cross, Liverpool Street and Russell Square stations; and on a double-decker No 59 bus near Russell Square outside the Tavistock Hotel. The first blast was on a train at Aldgate East at 8.49am. (Times)

I'm quite struck by the strategic cynicism of attacking public transportation, and then after an interval, the crowded bus lines once commuters had been diverted to them. But several friends I spoke with this morning who have lived in Israel say that this pattern - an initial attack, followed by a staggered attack on emergency services once they'd arrived - isn't at all uncommon. (My friends living abroad are kindly texting to see if i have all of my relevant body parts, attached in the appropriate fashion.) I find that such an attack on commuting civilians completely unengaged with the machinery of government, war, or administration is striking me as stomach-turning and revolting in a way I could not have previously imagined.

A friend has kindly pointed out I might perhaps justifiably acquire a bit of paranoia; on 11 September, I'd just arrived in Washington, from New York (and spent the day with David in the Carnegie Endowment building); now, notes my friend, they're coming after me in Britain. (Another friend helpfully opines, 'I'm sure it's not personal'.)
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