Terrorists Hit London Transportation System

A series of terrorist attacks hit the public transportation system in London during the morning rush hour.

Multiple explosions rock London (CNN)

Near simultaneous explosions rocked the London Underground network and at least one bus at the morning rush hour, police said, causing fatalities and prompting officials to shut down the entire underground transport network. In the first report of casualties, City of London police told CNN there had been two fatalities at Aldgate east station.

The explosions came a day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics and as the G8 summit was getting under way in Scotland. Initial reports blamed a power surge, but officials were not ruling out a terrorist attack. “There have been a number of dreadful incidents across London today,” said Home Secretary Charles Clarke, Britain’s top law enforcement officer. He said there were “terrible injuries.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said London had been hit by at least six blasts and there had been many casualties. He urged Londoners not to panic and said it was too early to say what caused the blasts.

BBC is being less cautious in its assessment:

Multiple blasts paralyse London

[…] The BBC’s Frank Gardner said Arab sources said the blasts were probably the work of al-Qaeda but police have not confirmed a terrorist link.

[…]

Sir Ian said there had been “many casualties” but said it was too early to put a figure to those killed or injured and he reassured the public that an emergency plan was in place and the situation was “steadily coming under control”.

It’s almost inconceivable what could cause six blasts around the transportation infrastructure aside from terrorist attacks. Aside from the coordination involved here, I would naturally suspect anti-trade extremists rather than Islamists, though.

Norman Geras is live blogging the events from the UK. He provides this grim excerpt from an Evening Standard story:

Eye-witnesses reported seeing bodies piled in the wreckage of damaged Tube trains. A double decker bus packed with people forced off the underground when the network was shut down was ripped apart by a massive blast. Eyewitnesses said there were many fatalities.

Kieran Healy and the Crooked Timber gang are providing coverage as well, with some London based insights in the comments section. Despite the understandable caution from the Government, no one is kidding themselves that this is any thing but a coordinated terrorist attack.

WaPo has its own reporter on the scene, although there’s no new information in the story. NYT is simply running AP copy at the moment.

Updates (0930): The death toll is up to 40, with at least 300 wounded.

Elsewhere:

    Michelle Malkin: “God bless Britain.”

    Susanna Cornett links some photo screen shots.

    Dean Esmay has much linkage, including several British bloggers.

    Arthur Chrenkoff analyzes this from the tactical perspective of the terrorists.

    Andrew Cochran has a link roundup of the tightened security around the Western world.

    Megan McArdle works for a UK company (the Economist) that’s “a little shell-shocked, but still putting out the news.” Hey, these are Brits, famous for their stiff upper lip.

    Lorie Byrd does a link roundup, as do LaShawn Barber and Glenn Reynolds.

    Scott Johnson‘s brother is in London and he hasn’t heard from him yet.

    Cori Dauber has multiple updates, including an interesting media observation: “I am absolutely fascinated by the fact that MSNBC, developed to give NBC News a 24 hour cable outlet, and having access to NBC’s London bureau, has chosen to take the feed from the British network ITN.”

    Athena weighs in amid apartment hunting. She offers: “The Mayor of London just spoke and I think it is the BEST direct speech to terrorists I have EVER heard. I’m sure it’s not up online yet, and I absolutely have to leave now to find an apartment, but google his comments.” I haven’t found the full remarks yet, but here is an excerpt:

    “This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners,” London Mayor Ken Livingstone said from Singapore before heading home.

    Duncan “Atrios” Black: “Horrible.”

    Jon Henke has several updates.

    Wretchard thinks these attacks far more sophisticated than those in Madrid.

    Confederate Yankee
    disagrees, saying this is the work of “amateurs.”

    Jay Tea has updates and commentary here and here.

    John Little has some photos and much linkage.

Many more in the TrackBacks below.

Update (1420): Fortunately, the death toll seems to be holding at 40. Unfortunately, the number of injured continues to escalate, with AP reporting the toll at 700.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SoouthernJoe says:

    I would naturally suspect anti-trade extremists

    I am not sure why you would expect “anti-trade” extremists since Al Quaeda has a repeated history of this sort of coordinated attack and that an al-Quaeda offshoot took responsibility for the attack.

    It might be useful to clarify what/who you mean by “anti-trade extremists”. Which organizations with violent histories or declarations are you talking about?

  2. McGehee says:

    It might be useful to clarify what/who you mean by “anti-trade extremists”. Which organizations with violent histories or declarations are you talking about?

    Maybe the people who rioted in Seattle when there was a trade conference there? Just a suggestion.

  3. James Joyner says:

    SJ: What McGehee said. The anti-trade extremists have been getting more violent as time has gone on.

    Al Qaeda hadn’t claimed responsibility at the time and I qualified with “Aside from the coordination involved here…”

    This has the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda op but the timing of the attacks otherwise suggested a group with different motives.

  4. SoouthernJoe says:

    Most of the violence in Seattle, Genoa, Ottawa, etc… was caused by the police who were trying to deal with large crowds.

    In Seattle the only violence perpetrated by the protesters was vandalism against property by a couple of dozen anarchists from Eugene. If you think that the Eugene anarchists are interested or capable of coordinated bombings of random civilians in the UK, I have some beachfront property in Nebraska I’d like to sell you.

    Outside of Al-Quaeda, the clear suspect is France. Given Chirac’s anti-UK comments over the past week and the fact that Paris lost the Olympic bid, this is a way for the French to destabilize Blair’s regime.

  5. Tom Cruise says:

    “Secret Organization – al-Qaida in Europe” has posted a claim of responsibility

    This is just my opinion but I think this is a bait attack, bait enough to keep UK from bringing troops back home so that they can wear away at them little bit by little bit.

    This could back fire id UK got serious now and sent enought troops ( equal to US ) to end this thing faster. But they won’t send more becuase we are trying to let the New Iraqi gov’t call the shoots.

    It is a sign a great condifedence on their part.

  6. Anderson says:

    “Anti-trade extremists.” Good lord. A telling example of how hatred or contempt can affect one’s cognition. Cheney’s determination to find Iraq at the bottom of 9/11 becomes a little more understandable, though not more pardonable.

  7. herb says:

    It now appears like Muslim extremist have carried out this attack on London. 9/11, Madrid and now London. This will only end when every nation recognizes that this is a holy war and we have to fight it as such. Here in America, we have the news that 5 Muslim-Americans have been captured in Iraq. It’s time for Holy War and we had best wage Holy War against the Muslims and put a stop th these fanatics that read the deadly scriptures in the Koran.

  8. dw says:

    Maybe the people who rioted in Seattle when there was a trade conference there? Just a suggestion.

    You’re kidding, right Kevin? I live in Seattle. I met some of these people. Union guys, unwashed college students, Kuncinich types. Not terrorists. There was a band of anarchists, but they really were anarchists — they couldn’t decide what they wanted to destroy. Look at any of the demonstrations of the last few years and you’ll see the same modus operandi. In the cases where you’ve seen property damage, you see a lot of people wrecking a McDonalds. Not once have you seen political assassinations or carnage, just a bunch of broken windows and fires.

    Now, look at what happened today. Multiple, coordinated bombings across a large city transit system. Where is there a similarity between the two? The anti-globalization forces are only capable of getting people on the streets, not of launching multiple bombings. Al-Queda, though, has done this in Madrid. And how would you convince 4-6 white college kids to blow themselves up on Underground trains without any promise of a heaven?

    Stop jumping to the “it’s gotta be those eevl liberals” petard every time something like this happens, Kevin.

    The anti-trade extremists have been getting more violent as time has gone on.

    Violent, yes. But coordinated? THIS coordinated? The most coordinated they can be is burn down houses on the same cul-de-sac. If anything, Seattle was a prime example of an uncoordinated set of incidents.

    I think you guys should retract your earlier random lashings-out and just get back to the facts.

  9. Joe Smoe :American Citizen says:

    It’s time for Holy War and we had best wage Holy War against the Muslims.

    Herb, are for *&^%ing real!!! Wait do you suggest that all Muslim Americans be stuck in concentration camps like we did to the Japanese in WW2? Nevermind the orderly is here with your medication

  10. James Joyner says:

    dw: Agreed, thus the qualifier “Aside from the coordination involved here….” Perhaps I should have written, “Were it not for the level of coordination involved here….”

    Anderson: I use “extremists” in the most literal sense. The vast majority of those in the “fair trade” camp are, in my judgment, wrongheaded but yet perfectly legitimate. There is a violent, anarchist element within their ranks, however, as there is in the anti-abortion movement.

  11. anjin-san says:

    deadly scripture???? wow…

  12. dw says:

    James — It would have probably helped more if I had read instead of scanned….

    Still, why would your first thought be anti-globalization protestors and not, say, a splinter faction of the IRA? Look at the diversity within the anti-globalization movement — liberals, socialists, conservatives, trade unions, churches, rock stars. Where would you get the terrorists from here? How would they organize? What would the demographic profile of the average terrorist be?

    Considering the size, strength, and average age of the anti-globalization movement, one would expect a hardcore faction would have already splintered off and been able to pull off a sophisticated attack with some level of carnage. But it hasn’t. In a way, it’s not getting any more violent. What happened in Seattle led to violence no longer being an aberration, but it also was so detrimental to the cause that the violence almost leveled out. I mean, has an anti-globalization splinter group shot up a McDonalds, or shot leaders of the IMF or WTO? No.

    And I think that’s because, on the whole, the size, diversity, and strength of the movement has given them a number of different outlets to make themselves heard. This is because of democracy, a free press, and the ability to get their message out.

    As well, I think you need to separate the anti-globalization movement from the radical environmental movement. The Earth Liberation Front, which has repeatedly used arson attacks in the West, isn’t related to the anti-globalization people at all. There is some fellow traveller crossover in spots, but try to find an ELF member who’s even talked to the leadership of the AFL-CIO.

  13. SoouthernJoe says:

    There is some fellow traveller crossover in spots, but try to find an ELF member who’s even talked to the leadership of the AFL-CIO.

    There is actually quite a bit of interaction between trade unionists and environmentalist. The most interesting is the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment which has members associated with Earth First! and members of the AFL/CIO. Rather than being proponents of violence, they are actually constructing alternative forms of forestation and energy industry jobs.

    As opposed to being terrorists, members of their organization have been victims of terrorist violence–namely Darryl Cherney and the late Judi Bari. The FBI couldn’t solve the case and actually blamed Cherney and Bari for the bombing. Cherney and Bari won a landmark lawsuit against the FBI and this case of domestic terrorism remains unsolved.

    It’s another example of justice department incompetence at solving terror cases.

  14. McGehee says:

    Ah, yes. Earth First! The people who were spiking trees in the Pacific Northwest to injure loggers. No, no reason at all to think Cherney and Bari might have made the bomb themselves.

  15. dw says:

    Stop being an asshat, McGehee.

    EF! has never bombed anyone and it’s never been their M.O. They go for tree-spiking and property damage. In fact, Judi Bari was advocating for EF! to abandon tree-spiking. ELF doesn’t go for bombing either; they prefer arson.

    Of course, if you knew anything about the environmental terrorist movement, you wouldn’t be such an asshat about this. You’d also know that ELF is the #1 domestic terror organization in America, is highly secretive and organized, and needs to be destroyed before they complete their movement towards being a bunch of homicidal thugs.

  16. Bria Favors says:

    Who do the people in London except blew up the 3 trains in London? Also about how many people died?