Bombers Strike London at Rush Hour
Friday, July 8, 2005
LONDON, July 7 -- Bombs detonated in three crowded subway trains and on a double-decker bus during the morning rush hour here Thursday, killing at least 37 people and injuring about 700 others in the deadliest terrorist attack carried out on British soil.
The first three blasts devastated the trains in quick succession, hurling broken metal, glass shards and body parts in every direction. Survivors fled down dark tunnels to escape flames and thick black smoke.
Thirty minutes later, a fourth explosion tore the top off a crowded red London-style bus and rained blood and bodies on the pavement below. "One moment there was a bus there, and the next moment it peeled up like a top of sardines," said Billy Palmer, 42, a musician who witnessed the explosion from the sidewalk. "About four or five people literally came flying out the top."
No arrests were announced, but British officials immediately pointed to Islamic extremists as the most likely perpetrators, citing the coordinated nature of the bombings and the timing -- on the first full day of a summit of leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations, who had gathered in Gleneagles, Scotland, with other heads of government.
A previously unknown group calling itself the Secret Organization of al Qaeda in Europe asserted responsibility for the bombings in a letter posted on a Web site used by extremists. The claim could not be verified.
"Rejoice for it is time to take revenge against the British Zionist Crusader government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan," the statement said.
Investigators were looking into the possibility that an attacker was killed aboard the bus, but they were unsure whether the bomb might have detonated accidentally while being transported or was set off in a suicide attack. The train bombings, in contrast, appeared to have been carried out by attackers who placed explosives in the trains and left.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been President Bush's closest ally in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, interrupted the summit to make a statement of anguish and outrage before television cameras. He declared that the bombers "will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations."
As he spoke, President Bush and the leaders of China, Japan, India, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Canada stood behind him in a show of solidarity. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was also present.
Blair then flew back to London to chair a special session of cabinet ministers, security officials and emergency coordinators. He emerged looking grim and shaken to condemn this "terrible and tragic atrocity" and to pledge an intense effort to capture those responsible.
"It's through terrorism that the people that have committed this terrible act express their values, and it's right at this moment that we demonstrate ours," said Blair, who added, "We will not be terrorized."
Less than 24 hours earlier, Londoners had literally danced in the streets to celebrate the city's surprise triumph over Paris in winning the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. But the mood of jubilation was shattered Thursday morning by the attacks, which security police here had long predicted as inevitable but for which they said there had been no warning.