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Thursday, July 07, 2005

More Feared Dead as Toll Is Compiled; Blair Sees G-8 Link - New York Times

More Feared Dead as Toll Is Compiled; Blair Sees G-8 Link - New York TimesJuly 7, 2005
More Feared Dead as Toll Is Compiled; Blair Sees G-8 Link

LONDON, July 7 - London was struck by a series of four apparently coordinated terrorist explosions in subways and buses during the morning rush hour today. The explosions ripped apart at least one double-decker bus and caused officials to close and evacuate the entire subway system.

At least 33 have been killed, but officials said that there were other fatalities that have yet to be included in the count. Witnesses reported seeing dozens of people stumbling out of subway stations, coughing, and black with soot. Dozens more were being loaded into ambulances on stretchers and taken to hospitals around the city.

In a televised statement from the Group of 8 summit meeting of world leaders, Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "reasonably clear" that the explosions had been an act of terrorism.

"It is reasonably clear that there has been a series of terrorist attacks in London," Mr. Blair said. "There are obviously casualties - with people that have died and people are seriously injured."

He added, "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 G-8."

Mr. Blair said he planned to travel to London from Gleneagles, Scotland, within the next few hours, and then return to Scotland for the summit this evening. In his absence, he said, the summit would continue.

"It is the will of all of the leaders of the G-8, however, that the meeting should continue in my absence, that we should continue to discuss the issues we were going to discuss - and reach the conclusions which we were going to reach," Mr. Blair said.

He added that it was "particularly barbaric" that the attacks had occurred during a summit intended to aid people in developing nations.

Later, speaking with President Bush and other leaders behind him, Mr. Blair said the summit participants would not "allow violence to change our societies or our values."

"The perpetrators of today's attacks are intent on destroying human life," he said. "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."

Also speaking from Scotland, President Bush said the contrast between the work of the G-8 summit and the actions of the apparent terrorists was "incredibly vivid."

"On the one hand, you have people working to alleviate poverty and rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS and ways to have clean a environment, and on the other hand, you have people working to kill other people," the president said. "The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who've got such evil in their hearts that they will take the lives of innocent folks. The war on terror goes on."

Spiegel Online posted a statement it attributed to an Arabic Web site. The statement, in Arabic, said that it was from a group called the Secret Al Qaeda Jihad Organization in Europe and that the group had carried out the attack in retaliation of Britain's involvement in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In response to the massacre that Britain has carried out in Iraq and Afghanistan: The heroic mujahedeen has undertaken a blessed attack in London," the statement said. "Now Britain is burning with fear, dread and dismay from north, south, east and west."

It continued: "We have warned the British government and the British people again and again. We have carried out our promise and undertaken a blessed military attack in Britain after great efforts by the heroic mujahedeen over a long period of time to ensure the success of the attack."

The statement also warned "Denmark, Italy and all of the Crusader governments" that they will be attacked if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The veracity of the claim could not be verified and various groups often claim responsibility after terror attacks. An Al Qaeda group based in Europe also claimed responsibility for the train bombings on March 11, 2004, in Madrid, which killed 191 and injured 1,900.

Traces of explosives were found at one of the blast sites, said the chief commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, Ian Blair, according to Reuters.

The police official said explosions had taken place at or around the subway stations at Edgware Road, King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Russell Square, Aldgate East and Moorgate. He declined to speculate on the cause, but added, "We are concerned that this is a coordinated attack."

Television pictures showed people with bloody faces and bandages on their faces and heads.

The explosions came a day after London celebrated winning the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Roger Clark, who was riding on a bus to work in central London, said he had seen a double-decker bus on the street ahead of him suddenly explode.

"The top rear section of the bus exploded, ripping apart the whole of the bus," he told CNN. "It lifted about 10 meters above the bus."

The bus, he said, had been "packed" with people.

Other witnesses reported seeing "multiple casualties, multiple bodies."

Mobile phones and land lines were not working because the systems had been overloaded. Large sections of central London had been cordoned off.

At Tavistock Square, a parking attendant, Ade Soji, said the driver of the bus that exploded had stopped him just before it took place. "I was helping a member of the public with directions when the bus stopped and the driver asked me the name of the street," Mr. Soji told the Press Association. "I told him Tavistock Square and he called me over. Just as I was about to go, I heard the bus explode. In another second I would have been dead. I had to run for my life."

Witnesses reported that the top of the bus was sheared off, like a sardine can.

Mr. Blair, London's police commissioner, said that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States, London's emergency services had been preparing for such an incident and that "the situation is being controlled." He warned people to "stay where you are," to avoid traveling around London, and not to call the police or ambulance services unless there was a life-threatening emergency.

At St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, officials reported that they had admitted four people with critical injuries, like loss of arms and legs; eight with serious injuries, including head wounds, smoke inhalation and lacerations; and four with more minor injuries, including temporary hearing loss.

Three million people ride London's subway system each day.

Loyita Worley, who works for a city law firm, told the BBC that she was in the subway when an explosion took place in the next carriage, while it was in a tunnel.

Ms. Worley, 49, said: "All the lights went out and the train came to an immediate halt. There was smoke everywhere and everyone was coughing and choking, but remained calm. We couldn't open the doors."

After the doors were opened they were taken to Liverpool Street station, Ms. Worley said. She said that the carriage where the explosion took place was "black on the inside" and that she had seen people who appeared to have their clothes blown off, as well as bodies lying inside the carriage.

London's airports have remained opened and subway stations could be reopened soon, though buses will continue to be out of service for now, said Charles Clarke, the home secretary of Britain.

"People are strongly advised not to travel into central London as the emergency services must be allowed to do their work in the most effective way that they can," Mr. Clarke said.

European stock exchanges, which continued to trade after the explosions, were down on average 2 percent. The London FTSE 100 index was down about 2 percent, or 109.50 points, to 5,120.10, in early morning trading New York time.

Crude oil prices took their biggest spill in months, dropping 1.9 percent, to $58.71 per barrel, in London trading on concerns about a slowing global economy. The British pound fell to $1.74 from $1.75.

In the United States, Amtrak said it had deployed extra officers and K-9 teams to stations, aboard trains and along the railroad, although there had been "no specific or credible threat made against Amtrak," according to an Amtrak statement. "The railroad will continue at this heightened security threat level until we have a better understanding of the events in London," the statement said.

Richard W. Stevenson contributed reporting from Auchterarder, Scotland, for this article, and Timothy Williams, Christine Hauser, Vikas Bijaj and Shadi Rahimi contributed from New York.

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