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Thursday July 28
As one chapter of twentieth-century terrorism was seemingly consigned to the dustbin of history with the IRA’s declaration that its armed campaign was at an end, Londoners got a clear reminder that the terror threat of the modern age is very real, and – despite what seems to be a highly effective intelligence effort – still largely uncharted.
Three weeks after the fatal bomb attacks, a huge police operation swamped the capital’s mainline railway stations and underground network, in an effort to reassure the public that the authorities are doing everything possible to make the transportation network as safe as it can be under difficult circumstances.
Meanwhile, Met chief Sir Ian Blair was warning that, yes, it was possible the bombers on the loose could yet strike again, hence it was vital that police get whatever information they can, as quickly as they can, from the alleged bomber, Yassin Hassan Omar, who was captured in Birmingham on Wednesday.
Sir Ian also said that the failure of the second wave of attacks on July 21 should not lead people to think the risk was any less.
”This is not the B team, these were not the amateurs, they only made one mistake and we’re very, very lucky,” he said at a press conference. “The carnage that would have occurred, had those bombs gone off, would have at least been equivalent to those on 7 July.”
Over the past 24 hours, police raids on Tooting and Stockwell, two areas of south London, have led to the arrests of nine people, with eyewitnesses talking of suspects struggling with police.
More information continues to come out about Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian national shot dead by police at Stockwell station. The Times says doubt is now being cast on the validity of his visa status, while The Guardian fills in some colour around what did and what his family say did not happen leading up to the shooting.
“Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Metropolitan police, Vivien Figueiredo, 22, said that the first reports of how her 27-year-old cousin had come to be killed in mistake for a suicide bomber on Friday at Stockwell tube station were wrong.
“He used a travel card,” she said. “He had no bulky jacket, he was wearing a jeans jacket. But even if he was wearing a bulky jacket that wouldn’t be an excuse to kill him.”
Flanked by the de Menezes family’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce, and by Bianca Jagger, the anti-Iraq war campaigner, she condemned the shoot-to-kill policy which had led to her cousin’s death and vowed that what she called the “crime” would not go unpunished.
“My cousin was an honest and hard working person,” said Ms Figueiredo who shared a flat with him in Tulse Hill, south London. “Although we are living in circumstances similar to a war, we should not be exterminating people unjustly.”
The FT, meanwhile, has a profile of the man who will chair the investigation into Mr de Menezes’ death.
Nick Hardwick, the chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is quoted as saying: “It would be wrong to look [only] at people on the front line; you have to look at who gave the orders and who is in the chain of command,” while the investigation is also set to examine the secret operational guidelines on the Metropolitan police’s shoot-to-kill policy.
Tuesday July 26
A demonstration in Brazil demanded that the police who shot Jean Charles de Menezes should be arrested. The AP reports: “Some of the protesters held banners denouncing British police as the real terrorists; other placards were adorned with snapshots of de Menezes, urging British prime minister Tony Blair to send his body home so it can be buried. All said Blair’s apology did not go far enough. ‘Apologies don’t help, we want justice,’ they chanted.”
At the same time, the Metropolitan Police were saying that they had come close to shooting suspected terrorists “on seven occasions since July 7th.” A Populous opinion poll for The Times shows that Blair’s reputation as a leader has grown since the London terror attacks, even though a majority of voters believe that his support for the US-led war on Iraq is partly to blame for London being targeted by terrorists.
Mr Blair meanwhile insisted today that Britain “would not give an inch” to terrorists, despite conceding that the War in Iraq may have been used as justification for the recruitment of potential suicide bombers.
He said part of the problem was that some of the world “woke up for a short time after September 11th, then went back to sleep again” .
And he received some support from French prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who was in London fortalks and played down their recent disagreements inthe cause of developing joint action in the wake of the London attacks. But The Times ran a picture of the French premier’s entry in the condolence book, which the paper said resembled “a dove hovering over a deodorant logo”.
As the search for the July 21st suspects continues, amid warnings that they could strike again, the New York Timesreports that there is, in some circles at least, are-assessment of the motives of the July 7th gang. The paper says:“ ..In recent days, some police officials are increasingly considering the possibility that the men did not plan to commit suicide and were duped intodying.
“Investigators raising doubts about the suicide assumption have cited evidence to support this theory. Each of the four men who died in the July 7 attacks purchased round-trip railway tickets from Luton to London. Germaine Lindsay’s rented car left in Luton had a seven-day parking sticker on the dashboard.”
The Washington Post meanwhile, reports on the ongoing difficulties facing the police in balancing security with civil rights – an issue also addressed by the prime minister’s wife, Cherie Blair.
The paper says: “Racial profiling by police has been a controversial issue here for decades. Under Britain’s broad anti-terrorism laws, police can be granted ‘stop-and-search’ powers to question anyone and, if they deem necessary, conduct a body search. Teams of officers can be seen at transit stations throughout the city scanning passengers. When finished questioning someone, they write out a form for the person that explains the reason for the stop and gives the shoulder badge number of the officer, in case the person wants to file a complaint.
Government statistics released last year showed that blacks were eight times more likely and Asians five times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than whites. Police officials have insisted they aredoing all they can to curb profiling.”
Jonathan Glover, an ethicist at King’s College London, writes in The Guardian of the need for mutual understanding: “What is needed is not a one-sided dialogue in which ”we” undermine “their” fanaticism. There are indeed questions to ask about settling political issues by murder or about settling moral issues by appeals to the supposed authority of texts claimed to be the word of God…
“In genuine dialogue both sides have positions at risk. Paradoxically, this can start a virtuous circle.One side admitting intellectual vulnerability may make the other side less defensive too.”
Monday, July 25
Lots of analysis today of the shooting of Brazilian citizen Jean Charles de Menezes, with The Guardian reporting Tony Blair as being “desperately sorry” for the man’s death, but saying:
”We also have to understand the police are doing their job in very, very difficult circumstances.
“Had the circumstances been different and had this turned out to be a terrorist, and they had failed to take that action, they would have been criticised the other way.”
The AP reports that a fifth bomber may also be on the loose, after another device was found in bushes at Wormwood Scrubs.
The Washington Post has the story of a Pakistani-American citizen in custody in the US, who is assisting with enquiries into the July 7th London bombings.
The story says:
”I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan, and while I am in Pakistan, if I see them in Pakistan, I will kill every American soldier I can in Pakistan,” he said during the interview with ITN Five News.
Thus began the strange jihadist odyssey of [Mohammed] Babar, 30, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Yankees fan who said he gave up a $70,000-a-year job as a computer programmer to join al Qaeda operatives in plotting attacks against US soldiers and targets in Britain.”
The Post also reports that British authorities are looking at potential links between the two groups of bombers.
”One working police theory is that the would-be bombers of July 21, whose backpacks of powerful homemade explosives failed to detonate, are from a cell of northern Africans living in the London area, the official said. The men who police believe carried out the July 7 attacks were British Muslims - three of them of Pakistani origin from the northern England city of Leeds, the fourth a Jamaican-born convert to Islam.
The other potential link between the two groups is the explosives. Investigators believe triacetone triperoxide was used in both sets of attacks, although they have still not conclusively identified the substance in the July 7 bombings. Traces of it were found in the pipes of a tub in a Leeds apartment believed to have been rented by one of the bombers, as well as in nine small bombs found in a rental car left by one of the men in a train station north of London.”
Sunday, July 24
Foreign secretary Jack Straw and the Metropolitan Police have apologised for the “tragedy” at Stockwell tube station that resulted in the fatal shooting by police of a Brazilian man, now apparently - despite early official statements - not linked to Thursday’s attempted bomb attacks.
Mr Straw told the BBC:
”We have to ensure that clear rules are operated but we also, tragically, have to ensure that the police do have effective discretion to deal with what could be terrorist suicide outrages about to take place. That’s the dilemma.”
The Guardian on Saturday further expanded on the problems faced by the police: “[they] know they cannot be seen to be heavy-handed with people from Muslim communities - not just because of civil rights, but because investigators believe the communities must be reassured that the police are on their side, so they will pass on any information on terrorism that may come their way.
On the blogs, there was much discussion about how the mistake could have happened (initial reports were that the man had been under surveillance, but then police said that he had emerged from a block of flats that was under surveillance - something of a difference), why the man ran when challenged (they were apparently plain clothes, armed police), and importantly, what the likely implications both for race relations and the “war on terror” might be.
One anonymous post on Nosemonkey’s consistently excellent blog read:
”As a british muslim who has had his fair share of beatings from police (admittedly not in the last 10 years) for doing *ABSOLUTELY NOTHING* wrong, i can tell you that yes, YES, this makes me even more scared than before of them. and i am told i look more greek than asian but that doesn’t seem to have saved me. so, though there are those who love the shoot-to-kill policy (because they are (from an aesthetic point of view) quite unlikely ever to find themselves on the wrong side of it), this is in no way a good thing when you consider how many more people this event will radicalise.”
Another poster at Perfect.co.uk said:
”No one has yet condemned the killing of an innocent man. No one has even apologised to the by-standers who were forced to, seemingly, watch an execution....
”No criticism of the fact that someone can be imprisoned, let alone killed ‘on suspicion’ of being a suicide bomber.
”No highlighting of the fact that all the eye-witness accounts make no mention of the police shouting ‘stop! Armed police!’ as they should have.”
While there will be an inquiry into the incident, Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair said: “There is no shoot to kill policy, there is a shoot to kill to protect policy, “ but The Guardian reported that he admitted it was possible more people could be shot as the manhunt for the suspected bombers goes on.
The New York Times reports that links between the origins of the incidents in London and the bomb attacks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-El-Sheikh at the weekend are hard to find.
But the Washington Post thinks, while investigators “believe the details of the bombing plots in Egypt and Britain - the deadliest terrorist strikes in each country’s history - were organized locally by groups working independently of each other”, that:
”Intelligence officials and terrorist experts said they suspect that bin Laden or his lieutenants may have sponsored both operations from afar, as well as other explosions that have killed hundreds of people in Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Morocco since 2002. The hallmarks in each case: multiple bombings aimed at unguarded, civilian targets that are designed to scare Westerners and rattle the economy.”
Finally, it was a game of two halves for Inter Milan today when they first cancelled their pre-season tour to London citing security fears, then changed their mind following representations from sports minister Richard Caborn.
Friday, July 22
The shooting of a man by armed, plain-clothes police on the underground today shows us how our defences against terrorism are leading us into places we always suspected we may have to go.
While police say the shooting was “directly linked” to yesterday’s failed bombings, the eyewitness accounts of the incident portray something of the shock with which we realise that our concept of normality has been shattered.
One said “One of the police officers was holding a black automatic pistol in his left hand. They held it down to him and unloaded five shots into him. I saw it. He’s dead, five shots, he’s dead.”
The police subsequently said the man wasn’t one of the four of whom they had earlier released CCTV pictures, in an appeal for information about yesterday’s incidents.
A group supposedly linked to al-Qaeda, the so-called Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade, claimed responsibility for the botched attacks, as well as the fatal bombings two weeks ago.
The Globe quotes her as saying:
’’I need evidence to know that my son killed anyone,” she said, defiance in her tone. ‘’I think I did a really good job with my son. He had good values. I did the best I could,” Ismaiyl said through tears. In her grief, she has turned to Allah: ‘’He’s the one who knows everything.”
New Yorkers, meanwhile, began dealing with new random bag searches on their city’s subway system. According to the NYT:
”At the 42nd and Eighth Avenue subway entrance, most people asked to have their bags searched by officers obliged without complaint, though a few were confused and asked why, while some others rolled their eyes or grumbled quietly as they rushed over to the small, white fold-out table to the left of the turnstiles, where two officers went through their bags.
The officers would unzip suitcases and lift up clothing and towels to pat beneath them with their gloved hands. With purses or backpacks, they would rifle briefly through papers and notebooks. For most people, the process took about 10 to 15 seconds.”
It may be the shape of things to come for London.
But, according to Chris, a poster on London MetBlog:
”Now because I’m not a terrorist I’m only guessing here, but I figure that any suicide bombs are going to be armed and ready to be triggered at a moments notice. So if a policeman does manage to stop search a terrorist, is that person going to a) throw their hands up in the air, say “it’s a fair cop” and give themselves up or b) detonate the bomb there and then because they have nothing to lose. My money’s on B because it’s the obvious one from their point of view.”
Finally, The Guardian said it has terminated the contract of trainee Dilpazier Aslam following controversy surrounding his membership of the Islamic organisation Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a story which blogger Scott Burgess at The Daily Ablution helped push into the mainstream.
Thursday, July 21
Two weeks on from the fatal attacks; and if someone’s intention was to further rattle the citizens of the world’s greatest capital, then that happened today with four attempted bombings which thankfully caused no fatalities, but again threw London’s transport system into chaos and kept the city on edge all day.
Sky News dramatically reported that a man had been arrested at gunpoint at Downing Street, and as it emerged that two people had been held in connection with today’s incidents, it also became apparent that these were of a different “and more amateurish” nature to those of two weeks previous. There was also much speculation as to who was responsible.
One contributor to The Guardian’s blog wrote:
”This sounds very much like a copycat attack to me, ill thought out and executed - luckily.
So much for the notion that we were initially dealing with only a lunatic, extremist fringe. I fear it will be all to easy for disillusioned radical Muslims to follow in their new heroes’ footsteps.
We need to act as one to stop this, throw open the doors to all our mosques and churches everywhere. Prove to each other we’re not to be feared because of cultural differences.”
Prime minister Tony Blair again restated his appeal that people should stay calm and “respond by keeping to our normal lives”.
The New York Times reports again on what is fast becoming Londoners’ “legendary” stoicism in the fact of threat, and quotes Mayor Ken Livingstone as saying:
”Those people whose memories stretch back to the terrorist campaigns in the 70’s and 80’s and early 90’s will remember there were very often horrifying bombings in London, often only weeks apart,” Mr. Livingstone said at a news conference. “We got through that and we will get through this.”
The mirror image attacks also provoked a reaction in the US, where there were calls for heightened security on the nation’s vulnerable transport networks. In the wake of events in London, additional police were on duty in Boston’s metro system, while police began random searches of bags carried by passengers entering the New York subway.
Although as one passenger said: “..These terrorists go where it’s easiest to go, so if you make it hard on the subway, they’ll go where we’re weak”.
The Associated Press reported that increased security costs mass transit systems just under $1m a day, while one congressman called for additional funding to plug the safety gaps.
”Instead of acting as a wake-up call, Congress seems to be hitting the snooze button,” said Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. “How many warnings do we need before we take action?”
President Bush, meanwhile, didn’t directly address the London attacks, but dusted off another ‘stand firm in the face of provocation’ speech, saying terrorists “don’t understand that when it comes to the defense of universal freedoms, this country won’t be frightened.”
Wednesday, July 20
The government’s proposed new anti-terrorism measures, outlined by home secretary Charles Clarke today, include the compiling of a list of worldwide extremists.
According to The Guardian: “The database would list individuals who had demonstrated “unacceptable behaviour”, which would include inflammatory preaching or running websites and writing articles intended to foment or provoke terrorism.”
Clarke also said he would look specifically at planned visits to Britain by noted Islamic radical preachers and that “I would of course have to consider whether [their] presence would be conducive to the public good.”
In the wake of yesterday’s story that a declining number of people think that compulsory ID cards would be an effective weapon against terrorists, this has been around for a couple of weeks but is simply brilliant.
London mayor Ken Livingstone’s comments to BBC Radio today expanded the sentiment in yesterday’s opinion poll showing that many people believe Britain’s support for the war against Iraq was at least partly responsible for making London a target.
Asked what he thought had motivated the bombers, Livingstone said:
”I think you’ve just had 80 years of western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of the western need for oil.
“We’ve propped up unsavoury governments, we’ve overthrown ones we didn’t consider sympathetic.
“And I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s... the Americans recruited and trained Osama Bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians and drive them out of Afghanistan.
“They didn’t give any thought to the fact that once he’d done that he might turn on his creators.”
On a similar note of responsibility and broader issues, The Independent turns again to the issue of Iraqi casualties, and says that the lack of a clear number of Iraqi dead during the conflict : “conveys the impression, first, that the invaders have scant regard for Iraqi lives. The US and British forces, rightly, count their own dead meticulously; they give them flag-draped coffins and military funerals. Those Iraqis whose lives have been cut short, however, are simply not recognised as casualties of the war. They are seen, in that disgraceful term, as no more than collateral damage.”
News also today that Prince Bandar bin Sultan is resigning as Saudi ambassador to the US. The AP reports that:
“He worked hard at maintaining strong ties between the United States and the conservative oil-rich monarchy. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, however, the Saudis have come under pressure to counter terrorists more aggressively and to block any financial support going to militant groups from within Saudi Arabia.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. That, and reports that some of his and his wife’s charitable contributions may have ended up in the hands of two Saudis believed to have close ties to the hijackers, contributed to tensions with Washington.”
Tuesday, July 19
All round, not a particularly good day for Tony Blair.
An ICM opinion poll for The Guardian showed that two-thirds of people in the UK believe the London bombings were “linked” to the British government’s decision to support the war against Iraq.
The Guardian said: “According to the poll, 33% of Britons think the prime minister bears “a lot” of responsibility for the London bombings and a further 31% “a little”.
However, it said, about another third (28 per cent) “agree with the government that Iraq and the London bombings are not connected”.
A “clear majority — 71% — want the government to exclude or deport from the UK foreign Muslims who incite hatred with only 22% believing such people should be allowed to live in the UK,” which the paper said should help bolster the government’s case for new anti-terror legislation, but there is a fall in the percentage of people who believe ID cards would be an effective counter-terrorism measure.
In the wake of reports of the leak of an intelligence document showing that the British government was warned that its involvement made London a terror target, the Evening Standard carried an interview with radical cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohamed, in which he appeared to blame Britain’s support for the US-led war as motivation for the bombings.
Mr Blair met with a number of British muslim leaders as well as Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. Mr Karzai was due to speak on Wednesday July 20 at Chatham House, the think-tank which issued a report this week arguing that the war on Iraq had made life more difficult for those countries which supported it. Those assertions were roundly rebutted by foreign secretary Jack Straw.
As Mr Blair tries to shore up support among “moderates”, the New York Times wrapped up the debate over the extent of co-operation the prime minister can expect from leaders of the Muslim community.
Among the blogs, there was reaction on Ummah.com’s forum pages to the proposed Muslim Unity Convention scheduled for Manchester next month.
“Seems like a conference of all the moderates who oppose the Jihad” wrote one poster, while another said: “Just for the record, Muslims don’t hate the Kuffar for their ‘freedoms’ or their ‘values’. We couldn’t care less if your immorality ate you alive. Sorry to disappoint you but we simply don’t care.
“However, we do care when you bring that BS to our countries and try to enforce it on our brothers and sisters. That is when we can’t stand your ‘freedoms’ or ’values’. Keep them to yourselves. Keep your ‘democracy’ to yourself. We have something far, far better. Alhamdulillah!”
Meanwhile, the fallout continued on blogs like the Daily Ablution and Harry’s Place around the issue of the Guardian’s trainee reporter who has links with what the Independent says is “one of Britain’s most extreme Islamic groups”.
Finally, FT columnist Martin Wolf wrote about broader issues in the aftermath of the London bombings and the relationship between the West and Islam:
“Multiculturalism always has limits. But the limits are particularly obvious within a state if one group believes legitimacy derives from voting and the other that it derives from a holy book.
“The aim is to develop institutions that generate the trust needed to live in peace. Claims that one possesses the faith that provides an answer to everything, while all alternatives are worthless, are inconsistent with such trust and co-operation. So are calls to holy war. Yet so must be imposition of democracy by force.”
Monday, July 18
According to Chatham House (or the Royal Institute of International Affairs), a “key problem for the UK in preventing terrorism in Britain is the government’s position as ‘pillion passenger’ to the United States’ war on terror.”
Phew. Someone has said it formally. Aside from that Clare Short interview, but it seems that she didn’t rattle the goverment’s cage quite like this report. Jack Straw is apparently “astonished” at Chatham House. Perhaps no-one listens to Clare anymore.
Meanwhile, the anti-terror response is still gathering pace online. Pray 4 Peace has just been set up by Karim Elsahy, author of the blog One Arab World, who writes: “I am an Arab-American and have hence seen a lot from both ends of this ‘War on Terror’. I am sick of it.”
Meanwhile, the view of some US columnists is still one of head-scratching, as the press come to terms with the concept of the homegrown terrorist; and the intricate racial fabric of British society is increasingly under scrutiny, as the four bombers have been identified as of Pakistani (three) and Jamaican origin.
As the Pakistan Ambassador to the United Nations says: “It is important not to pin the blame on somebody else when the problem lies internally.”
Sunday, July 17
Almost all the British Sunday papers run with the picture of the four London bombers at Luton station on July 7th, but true to form, they all have a different angle. The Sunday Times focuses on the MI5 judgement that one of the bombers was perceived as “no threat”; the Observer warns that the terror hunt is “to take decades”.
Unhelpfully, the News of the World describes the four bombers as “So bloody cocky”, swaggering into the station, while the Independent on Sunday is more interested in new links between one of the bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, and al-Qaeda.
Aljazeera reports the GMTV interview with Clare Short, the ex-development secretary, who said she “had no doubt” that London bombings were connected to Iraq war. The interview can’t be found on the GMTV website (yet), however...
The Station log book (a view from an LU supervisor) is also an interesting take on trying to get things back to normal. Apparently Londoners are back to doing what they do best - whining about the tube. He writes “It annoys me because the same people who just over a week ago were calling us heroes, now say we’re incompetent because we can’t restore services as quickly as they’d like. If only some of these passengers understood what it actually takes to keep 3 million people a day moving they wouldn’t be half as quick to criticise and complain.” Quite. Now get on that bicycle.
Friday, July 14
Reports that the “mastermind” behind the London attacks - thought to have been recently teaching chemistry at Leeds University - had been arrested in Egypt led to plenty of speculation and analysis, especially as ABC News, the New York Times and other mainstream media outlined his US connection.
A spokesman for North Carolina State University, where the suspect had attended, told the Washington Post that “the school has gathered records in anticipation of being contacted by the FBI.”
As always with the blogosphere there are also some interesting theories on the wider significance of these developments.
On John Aravosis’ AmericaBlog for example, comes the idea that the thread of the terror network which culminated in the London attacks stretches back a lot further than many think.
He writes: “The British authorities say they have evidence that the London attacks last week were an operation planned by Al Qaeda for the last two years. This was an operation the Brits thought they caught and stopped in time, but they were wrong. The piece of the puzzle ABC missed is that this is an operation the Bush administration helped botch last year.”
There were also some interesting observations on the two minutes silence and how we paid our public respects one week on.
Fairvotewatch.com, for example, said of the Trafalgar Square vigil: “Some fine, watery words, but where was the anger? Isn’t anyone feeling it?”
Tom Watson, writing at the Huffington Post points to the fact that in France, President Chirac’s scheduled Bastille Day television address was delayed to allow citizens to join in the demonstration of sympathy and solidarity.
And Watson also offers some thoughts on how President Bush initially reacted to news of the attack, and what - with hindsight - he might have done differently.
He writes: “On the morning of September 13th, 2001, the officer in charge of the Coldstream Guards Band and 1st Battalion Scots Guards received a call from Buckingham Palace. Banish tradition. The music accompanying that day’s tourist-swathed ceremomy at the changing would be different. That day, the band played The Star-Spangled Banner. The Brits were with us.”.......
”Our President, George W. Bush, was actually in the United Kingdom when terror struck London. He was in Scotland, a two-hour flight from Heathrow. Understandably, he and the other leaders completed the G8 summit, unbowed by the carnage in the London transit system.
And then our President came home.
And in doing so, he knowingly cast a gob of bitter spittle in the face of our constant ally, and disgraced the United States of America.
Why didn’t President Bush visit London? Why didn’t he walk the streets, take a few questions from the press, show the power of his office to Londoners? Stand at the side of Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone? Why hasn’t anyone asked? Why did he fly all the way to Washington, signing the condolence book at the British Embassy - instead of walking a moment or two in Londoners shoes.”
Finally, Nosemonkey’s beer fund project sounds well worth supporting and is a typically perfect London way of giving people an opportunity to connect - on as personal a level as the web allows - with those who truly deserve our thanks.
Thursday, July 14
The two minutes silence in London and across Europe today was poignantly and almost perfectly observed. Virtually everyone from the FT and the surrounding offices was either at prayers in Southwark Cathedral or on Southwark Bridge, where you could have heard a pin drop.
The Hypatia Avenue blog summed up the scene nicely:
“It was eerie and sobering and incredibly moving. It’s always hard to know just how many people work in our office and studio complex and despite having been here for almost two years, I looked around at all the serious faces, all the bodies held still in the silence just outside where we all come to earn our living and thought to myself, good God, there’s so many of us! And we’re all thinking about the same thing, and we’re all here for the same reason”….
“I think everyone who observed the silence feels as if we’ve been holding our breath since last Thursday, ribs tight and taut over the confusion and dismay. And now we’ve let it go. We remembered and will always remember what happened. But the city and its people will continue, we breathe in and breathe out to the unstoppable rhythm of life here, that heartbeat, that music, that sound of a city loved by its people that loves it back. It always changes but never stops.”
The Associated Press wrote:
”Queen Elizabeth II stood motionless outside Buckingham Palace, and a crowd filled Trafalgar Square, where many could be seen wiping away tears and hanging their heads in prayer during the two-minute tribute that began at noon. The silence was broken only by the tolling of Big Ben.”
The BBC reports there was also a candlelit vigilon the island of Bali, at the scene of terror attacks in 2002 which killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists.
With the world rallying round, the We’re Not Afraid site is now up to 80 picture galleries, while it says its merchandise sales have already raised around $2,000 for the Red Cross London Bomb Relief fund.
Thursday’s news was dominated by the ongoing searches for further participants in last week’s attacks, as leaders of Britain’s Muslims are facing up to what one has described as a “defining moment” and “the most profound challenge yet”. There is much coverage of the lives of the four suspected bombers and their place in the community from which they came.
The New York Times says:
“In many ways, the two youngest suicide bombing suspects, Mr. Tanweer, 22, and Mr. Hussain, 18, were British to the core, shaped by their diverse, rough neighborhoods, where flashy cars, petty teenage battles and designer clothes jostle with the Muslim values of work, family and religion. But in the last year or two, friends said, they had noted a turn toward Muslim piety in each man; nothing shocking or obnoxious, just something plain to see.”
While the Washington Post reports:
”People in the community are agonizing and asking, ‘What could we have done to prevent this?’ “ said Azzam Tamimi, a leader of the Muslim Association of Britain, who called the prospect of British suicide bombers a nightmare scenario. “We’ve been working very hard over the past four to five years liaising with the authorities . . . with various agencies organizing and supervising youth activities. And still this has happened.”
Prince Charles, meanwhile, said that “every true Muslim” had a responsibility to help root out the “evil influence” within their faith.
The BBC reports:
”Some may think this cause is Islam. It is anything but. It is a perversion of traditional Islam,” Prince Charles said. The prince said Muslim leaders were right to point out the attacks had no link to “true faith”. “Those who claim to have murdered in the name of Islam have no care for the lives they have so brutally destroyed.
“Offended by the good relations between faiths and cultures, the extremists seek to break up the communities that make up our modern, multi-cultural society,” the prince wrote.
Wednesday, July 13
A statement from London Mayor Ken Livingstone reminds us of tomorrow’s planned silence in memory of the victims of last week’s attacks:
“At noon (on Thursday) millions of Londoners will observe two minutes silence. Every bus in the city will stop, businesses will stop and I want everyone who can to come out of their workplaces and homes onto the streets of London to remember those who died and to show their complete defiance of the terrorists.”
With the dramatic developments in the police inquiry over the past 24 hours, apparently yielding success in tracking down the alleged - British-born - perpetrators, the main questions now surround the relationship between them and their local communities, whether they were part of a wider terrorist network, and, as always, whether the current heightened risk might be alleviated anytime soon.
At prime minister’s questions, Tony Blair called for calm, but also said that the government was exploring how to tighten existing security measures.
’This is a small group of extremists,” he said.”Not one who can be ignored, but neither should it define Muslims in Britain who are overwhelmingly law-abiding, decent members of our society,’ he said, adding that the government condemns any attack against Muslims “unreservedly.” Mr Blair also said the government would seek talks with British Muslim leaders to find ways to counteract any “poisonous misinterpretation of Islam”, and that Britain would be talking to other nations on how to mobilise the “moderate and true voice of Islam” against terrorism.
The prime minister will undoubtedly be hoping to build on developments such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ recent petition disassociating from violent actions in the name of islam, yet last night’s edition of ’‘Lateline”on Australia’s ABC network indicates how difficult genuine progress might be while some muslim opinions are so deeply entrenched.
An excerpt from the programme:
”MICHAEL EDWARDS: The London bombings and an escalation of military activity in Afghanistan have once again violently brought the world’s attention to the conflict between Islamic extremism and the West. But to Australian cleric Sheikh Omran there’s no proof Islamic extremists have any involvement. He even went as far as to say Osama bin Laden is a great man for some of his actions.
SHEIKH MOHAMMED OMRAN, ISLAMIC CLERIC: When you look at the man, from some part of his life, yes, he is. From another part, well, again, what action we are talking about? I dispute any evil action linked to bin Laden. Again, I don’t believe that even September 11 - from the beginning, I don’t believe that it was done by any Muslim at all, or any other activities. London, as I said just a few seconds ago, never done yet - no one proven that any Muslim has a hand in it.”
Meanwhile, UK home secretary Charles Clarke told the BBC that the four men being linked with the London attacks - he referred to them as “foot soldiers” - had blown themselves up in what would be Britain’s first-ever suicide bombings.
He told the BBC it was “a central hypothesis” that the bombers were part of a wider network and that there were “organisations who wanted to destroy the fundamental structure of UK democracy.”
While Mr Clarke was in Brussels trying to convince his EU colleagues of the need for enhanced virtual surveillance and record-keeping, the Washington Post reports that US law enforcement agencies are lobbying for greater powers to monitor in-air internet communications.
The paper says:
”The law enforcement agencies say they support giving travelers the ability to surf the Web and communicate via e-mail or instant messaging in the air but also fear that terrorists could use the services to coordinate an attack among themselves on a single plane, between aircraft or with people on the ground. The government also fears terrorists could use internet-connected devices to detonate explosives via remote control.
”There is a short window of opportunity in which action can be taken to thwart a suicidal terrorist hijacking or remedy other crisis situations aboard an aircraft, and law enforcement needs to maximize its ability to respond to these potentially lethal situations,” according to the filing, which was first reported by Wired News.”
London Metblog points to the situation faced by Chris Cleave, author of the novel ‘Incendiary’, which tells the story of how people react when affected by a - fictional - terror attack in London. Its launch, scheduled for July 7, was cancelled.
On his web site, which includes an extract from the book, Cleave says:
”Yesterday, on Thursday 7th July - by sorrowful coincidence the day my book was published - its fictional world became murderous, brutal reality. I don’t think my book is unusually prescient - we all knew this was coming – but none of my months of imagining the horror prepared me for the reality of it. Yesterday the voice of my narrator was joined by real voices: the angry, brave, compassionate voices of Londoners responding to an act of savagery in our city.”
Finally, as if to further demonstrate the frequently praised stoicism of Londoners and how humour can help heal, word reaches us that after someone’s sympathetic post on an American web site: “We are all Londoners today”... was the response: “That’ll be eight quid for the congestion charge, then...”
Tuesday, July 12
With accurate, trustworthy information at a premium during the events of last Thursday, as well as their confusing immediate aftermath, both mainstream media and bloggers were under no illusions of the difficulty of filtering fact from rumour, or cutting through exaggeration to get as true a picture as possible.
There were many liveblogging the day’s events as they unfolded; like Nosemonkey, Robin Grant or the Londonist, who were combining personal experiences and observations with the task of pulling together lots of - often conflicting - information from as many sources as they were able. But as the day went on, it all combined to offer a compelling picture of what was happening.
All of them, and all of the mainstream media as well, were inevitably labouring under a lack of official confirmation and conflicting accounts, as well as unreliable mobile communications. But as things became clearer, the telling of the story was enhanced by some harrowing first-hand accounts and dramatic cameraphone images; many posted through Flickr, or Wikipedia’s images site as well as on mainstream news sites like the BBC and The Guardian.
As the global online community combined to share messages of sympathy, support and defiance, opinion began to ease out actuality; particularly around the key questions: who did this and how can we stop it happening again? There were as many opinions, theories and political stances as there were blogs.
Like many others, Jihad Watch speculated on the terrorists’ motivation and where they might strike next.
On the blog From Cairo With Love, Mohamed, “an ordinary Egyptian”, says:
”I don’t want to forget the wrong that the terrorists did here, but we just need to put everything in perspective. The terrorists are criminals who did a heinous crime and must be punished, and Bush and Co. should be questioned for messing with the world claiming that he is punishing them, when he’s not, allowing them to go further. And then who’s to blame? us, the rest of the Muslim world. Well, I won’t sit and take the blame for something that I have nothing to do with. Condolonces to all those innocent people who have died and have been injured. Terrorists, go to hell.”
Global Voices Online has links to many Islamic blogs and web sites, as well as a discussion group on the implications for ordinary muslims of the actions of a few extremists. IraqiExpat for example, says:
“Today’s attacks must - and they will - strengthen our commitment to defeat this barbaric hateful terrorism. We will not bow - I will never bow - to these despicable terrorists, even if my life depends on it. What happened to London today was an outrageous evil act by shameless criminals who, sadly, call themselves Muslims. Today, my family and I are ashamed of being Muslims.”
On his personal blog, British MP and former Labour minister Clive Soley posted:
”Yes, the perpetrators are criminals and need to be caught, but every terrorist act has a legitimate political grievance behind it. We should not now be led by the nose by politicians who seek to capitalise on our fear and anger, in order to divert us from the truth.”
(Not Ken Livingstone’s) Mayor of London Blog gives details of where donations for the appeal fund may be sent, as well as pointing to this opportunity through Pledgebank to demonstrate a public show of defiance against terrorism as the people of Madrid were able to do following the atrocity in their city last year.
As often with the online world, and particularly where facts are open to interpretation and slant, no theory is free from examination.The US-based Wayne Madsen Report, for example, offers that:
”Some informed British sources believe that the recent London Transport bombings may have been the work of far right-wing British terrorists hoping to stir up tensions with the nation’s large Muslim population. There are several reasons for this belief. One is that GCHQ and MI-5 intercepts of the communications of Muslim groups in Britain and abroad - groups suspected of ties to militants - revealed that targeted individuals and organizations were genuinely surprised at the London bombings. Another is the statement of former Metropolitan London police commissioner Sir John Stevens that the perpetrators were “almost certainly” British. Although many accused Stevens of stirring up racial tensions, he never referred to British Muslims.”
With the police reviewing hours of CCTV footage for clues, the issue of the balance of privacy and personal liberty against effective security is to the fore. On the government’s proposed changes to its legislative powers to combat terrorism, blogger Gary Monro says:
“The problem for those of us who want to maintain our liberty is that, at times like this, the general public would tend to react in the same way as our authoritarian government. It’s important that we describe liberty not as some abstract idea that you can switch on and off as you please, not as some cultural ‘add-on’, along with voting, cricket and the Sunday roast, but as the very essence of a cultural and traditional mindset that actually gives rise to the national character and way of life that we enjoy. Liberty is one of our country’s vital organs; remove it and you have removed something essential to our character, something who’s loss forever alters what we actually are.”
The ongoing debate over civil liberties, the arrests in Leeds, together with Tuesday’s story on the BBC that the British National Party is using a photograph of the bombed bus in a council election leaflet with the slogan “maybe now it’s time to start listening to the BNP”, will doubtless provide much fodder for bloggers over coming days.
Monday, July 11:
As Britain’s “biggest-ever manhunt” gathers pace, the fear of further attacks has also been a constant in most press coverage - domestic and overseas - since the weekend, especially after the evacuation of central Birmingham on Saturday.
Reporting that arrests had been made and a “suspect device” recovered in a police raid on the city’s Sandwell area, along with “controlled explosions” of suspect packages, the Birmingham Post raises the possibility of a second, unrelated group being active, and complicating the intensive search for the London bombers.
The paper also reports West Midlands Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee justifying the evacuation, which affected around 20,000 people, insisting there had been a “real and significant” threat to lives.
“I can tell you that, bearing in mind the current world climate, the information we received posed a real threat to the lives of people in the city centre,” he said. “I believe this threat was significant for me to authorise this evacuation”.
With the arrest and subsequent release of three men at London’s Heathrow Airport over the weekend, official comment has been dominated by a renewed urgency to apprehend those responsible for Thursday’s blasts, with prime minister Tony Blair praising London’s stoicism and vowing to hunt down the terrorists.
Downing Street also hinted at changes to the existing emergency powers and anti-terrorism legislation, with the BBC reporting: “The government is prepared to introduce new emergency anti-terrorism powers if the police and the security services felt these were needed, he [Blair] said.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said ministers believed they had identified where new powers were required, but were willing to listen to any request from the security services for other measures.”
Home Secretary Charles Clarke also told the BBC that: “Our fear is, of course, of more attacks until we succeed in tracking down the gang that committed the atrocities on Thursday.” He said the “Number one priority has to be the catching of the perpetrators.”
The New York Times story shows how with the identification of the first victims, the disaster made no distinction between the race, nationality or beliefs of London’s diverse citizenry.
The Times also reports that Britain has turned to its allies for help in gathering intelligence about the attacks and those who may have carried them out.
“The contacts included an extraordinary, private meeting in London on Saturday, convened by Scotland Yard and MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, that brought together senior law enforcement and intelligence officials from the United States and the two dozen European countries, three participants and several others with knowledge of the session said.
European participants said they were struck by how little was known about the attacks, which hit three trains in the London Underground and a double-decker bus on Thursday.”
“The call for help was unusual coming from Britain, which is regarded by other European countries as often having access to more and better quality intelligence because it is part of a long-established, Anglophone intelligence-sharing agreement with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.”
The Chicago Tribune meanwhile, reports on the mood among London’s muslim community, suggesting that, after an initial angry reaction and some fears of a backlash, sentiment appears to have been tempered.
The paper reports that after an “e-mail bomb of thousands of hate-filled messages to the Web site of the Muslim Council of Britain,” that Muhammed Abdul Bari reports that email messages are running “about 4-1” in support of the predicament that muslim Londoners find themselves in.
”Whoever did this,” Bari said, referring to four bombs that ripped through three subway trains and a bus last week, “did a terrible callous thing. It’s atrocious. . . . These groups claim to be Muslim, but who are they really?”
”One thing is clear: Londoners, Muslim and non-Muslim, are united against this,” he said.
Sunday, July 10:
The fate of the missing and the bodies still left deep underground weighed on the minds of many of those most directly affected by the attacks on London’s transport network.
“I was involved in the Edgware Road bombs. We were told it was only a power surge. We were told to evacuate. There were screams and everyone was confused. I was in a daze - it was only a power surge. Now it is hard to deal with the guilt of leaving the others trapped behind,” wrote Sigrun Matthiesen in a discussion forum on FT.com.
But as the immediate shock of the attacks gave way to the grisly post-mortem an undertone of recrimination was more evident in press coverage.
The New York Times claimed Britain’s “deep tradition of civil liberties and protection of political activists have made the country a haven for terrorists”.
“For a decade, the city has been a crossroads for would-be terrorists who used it as a home base, where they could raise money, recruit members and draw inspiration from the militant messages,” said an article on the front page of the newspaper’s website which echoed similar sentiments in other US newspapers.
The Washington Post said Britain’s “ambiguous policies” towards exiled dissidents had helped make the city a hub.
“London’s radical fringe draws in part from the alienated edges of Britain’s large and overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim immigrant population. But it has been influenced, too, by Britain’s ambiguous policies toward exiled radicals, a sometimes awkward blend of asylum offers, intelligence collection and criminal prosecution,” an article on the Post’s website said.
That critique is likely shared by some in the US intelligence community, but a US contributor to an FT.com discussion instead emphasised Tony Blair’s support for the US-led war in Iraq as the key trigger for the attacks.
”As an American, I want to thank you all for standing by us in Iraq. The minute you did, you put yourselves in harm’s way. Your friendship and loyalty to us are deep, abiding, and so deeply appreciated. I am heartsick over the terrorist attacks on your soil. My, our, hearts are with you all. Be brave and sure,” wrote Mary Beth Griffin.
Such links between Iraq and the attacks were discouraged in earlier coverage of the bombings in the The Times of London, which said that however inevitable the attack, this did not mitigate the outrage at the bombings and that any link between the attack and British involvement in Iraq was flawed thinking.
The newspaper said al-Qaeda’s terror campaign began well before the removal of Saddam Hussein and did not need an extra incentive in its attempts to ignite a holy war with Western civilisation
Robert Fisk took the opposite view in an article that appeared in the Independent on the day after the attacks. He placed the blame for making London a terrorist target firmly at the door of Mr Blair because of his decision to assist George W. Bush in the invasion of Iraq.
Friday, July 8
The Wall Street Journal Europe led with the headline: “London bombings show Europe is still hobbled in terror fight”.
Law enforcement officers in Europe derisively refer to the city as ”Londonistan” because the city is home to so many extremist Islamic groups, said the paper.
The free movement of people and the lack of political and legal integration in Europe provide an ideal environment for terrorists, the paper said.
The Guardian front page was dominated by a picture of the bus that exploded near Russell Square. Inside, Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, argued that any attempt to defeat terrorism by military means was doomed to fail and that the G8 needed to seize the opportunity to address the wider issues at the root of terrorism such as poverty.
Tom Utley in The Telegraph questioned the goal of Thursday’s attack. The Madrid bombing helped oust the government which had supported the Iraq war, but other than publicity because of the start of the G8 summit the bombs on the London transport system seem to be without any logic, how ever spurious.
Arabs express sympathy
As indications initially grew that the UK authorities believe the London bombings to be the work of Arab terrorists linked to the al-Qaeda network, there was little official reaction to the bombings from Arab leaders.
But comments posted on the BBC World Service’s Arabic-language web site gave an indication of the way ordinary Arabs viewed the attacks.
Most comments condemned the attacks in the strongest terms and many expressed the hope that people would not make a link between the attacks and Islam.
“Those who carried this out are not Muslims and cannot be. I am a Muslim living in the UK. You can only imagine the extent of my shame and embarrassment at what has happened…The British are good, peaceful people who have done nothing to deserve what happened this morning”, wrote Mustafa Yasri, an Egyptian living in London.
“Terrorism is a despicable and cowardly act against innocent people. I hope that there will be a thorough investigation into the perpetrators and clear evidence presented before accusations are levelled against Arab and Muslims as a whole,” said Mohammed Abdel Mun’im, another Eygptian, living in Cairo.
Susan Rashid, living in Stockholm, wrote: “It’s a disgraceful and despicable crime. In my view it will not hurt or intimidate the British government. In fact, the opposite is likely to be the case. We learnt this lesson after September 11, when the influence and malice of the American government increased and it is always the innocent who pay, especially poor people, not only in the US and Britain, but all over the world. Criminal, terrorist acts like these can only increase the threat of chauvinism which harms all [Arab] immigrants living in Europe and America, whether or not they are supporters of terrorism. We need to unite the world against oppression, not create more enemies.”
And a Syrian, Ahmed Miskoun, asked whether it was the terrorists’ intention “that their brothers living in exile should be oppressed by the British authorities?” He went on to suggest that world leaders meeting in Gleneagles in Scotland should focus not only on poverty but on the issue of oppression and dictatorship in third world countries, which forced so many of their people into exile. “Isn’t it their duty to call together all forces of opposition in these countries and all organisations that believe in freedom, democracy and peaceful change to discuss how to root out oppression and fight terrorism?” he asked.
“These incidents are part of a series that began in the past and will continue to take place in future in developed countries as long as they fail to tackle the widespread causes of extremism and terrorism in the third world countries,” said Ahmed Saeed, writing from Zagazig in the Egyptian delta. “It is dictatorial Arab rule and the oppression of the Arab people that is the chief cause of the emergence of the organisations that carry out these acts of aggression,” he said.
Pride and pain of London bloggers
“We are a United Kingdom... and that’s exactly what they’ve done today, ensure we are united. We won’t let them get away with this, they should found, tried and imprisoned for this pain. I don’t want to see more war breaking out, this will just ensure more innocent lives get lost but I do want to see these evil people brought to justice. I don’t know what drives these people but whatever it is the pride and unity of us British will drive us much further.” http://beingmeblog.20six.co.uk/
“At about midday, the pavements of Camden Road became a solid body of people snaking home from central London, either eager to escape any further carnage or having prudently deciding that any attempts to make it home later would be chaotic. There was an eerie calm feel. There wasn’t much traffic, certainly no buses. People weren’t animated and weren’t talking, but people did seem to be giving each other meaningful looks and reassuring half smiles”. www.howshuw.blogspot.com
“I am humbled by the actions of those who have worked ceaselessly all day for their fellow Londoners. My heart goes out to those whose loved ones didn’t come home tonight and the horror, pain and grief that they will be experiencing tonight and in the weeks to come. I am truly sorry for your loss.”http://london.metblogs.com/
“A two fingered salute to anyone who tries to change the way i lead my life. whoever did this will never put us down. they will never win. that is why we are londoners. and yep, tomorrow i’ll be back on the top deck of the 15.” www.diamondgeezer.blogspot.com