"Barbaric attacks"

A coordinated series of terrorist bombings on London's transportation system kills dozens and sends capital into chaos.


Mark OliverSarah Left
July 7, 2005 5:53PM (UTC)

A series of explosions ripped through London today as suspected terrorist attacks on tube trains and a bus killed at least 33 people and plunged the capital into chaos.

The Metropolitan police confirmed 33 deaths in the three tube blasts, but did not confirm the number of people killed on a double-decker bus gutted by a bomb. The London ambulance service said it had treated 45 people with serious or critical injuries, including burns and amputations, and another 300 people with minor injuries. London hospitals reported treating hundreds of wounded.

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Police said no one remained trapped on tube trains, and there was no intelligence that any further bombs were on the network.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "reasonably clear" that the blasts were the work of terrorists, and added that it was "particularly barbaric" that attacks had been timed to coincide with the start of the G8 summit. The prime minister left the summit venue, Gleneagles, in Scotland, to return to London.

Speaking at Gleneagles, with the leaders of the G8 nations lined up behind him, Blair said, "We condemn utterly these barbaric attacks.

"All of our countries have suffered from terrorism ... We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation but on all nations and on civilised society everywhere," he said.

He insisted the G8 leaders would continue their discussions and would not allow the terrorists to halt a summit aimed at helping the world's poorest people.

London Underground said the whole of its system would remain shut down today, although service would be resumed on the Docklands Light Railway. Transport for London said central London buses would start running again over the course of the afternoon.

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Brian Paddick of the Metropolitan police said the first blast occurred at 8.51 a.m. on a tube train about 100 yards into a tunnel from Liverpool Street station. Seven people died. The second blast, with the highest confirmed death toll so far, came five minutes later on a tube train on the Piccadilly line near King's Cross. Police confirmed 21 deaths.

At 9.15 a.m., a third explosion hit a train in Edgware Road station, blowing a hole through the wall of a second train and possibly affecting a third. The explosion killed five people.

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The final blast came half an hour later on a number 30 bus at Tavistock Square, near Russell Square. Paddick said people had been killed in that attack, but did not confirm how many.

Amid the confusion, early reports spoke of seven attacks, as incidents were reported by those in stations at both ends of the affected track.

The only attack that occurred in full view of the general public was that on the bus. A bomb ripped the red double-decker bus apart, peeling away its sides, blowing off the roof and leaving the few remaining seats exposed. Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair said the bomb exploded in the back part of the top deck of the bus.

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The police commissioner said, "We are concerned that this is a coordinated attack." The police refused to speculate on who had carried out the attacks, but said they had received neither a warning nor a claim of responsibility. However, BBC Monitoring said it had found a website carrying a brief statement in which an al-Qaida-related organisation claimed responsibility for today's blasts.

The number of attacks, coupled with their scale and rush-hour timing, meant there were heavy casualties, with the death toll expected to rise and some estimates putting the number of wounded at up to 1,000. This afternoon, ambulance sources said at least 40 people had been killed.

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, urged people to stay at home until further notice, telling them not to go into central London. Police asked people currently working in the centre of the capital to begin making their way home to avoid the usual 5 p.m. rush hour.

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The Royal London hospital said it had treated 208 people, including 10 with critical injuries. The Royal Free hospital treated 55 people, and University College hospital treated another 50.

St. Mary's hospital, in Paddington near Edgware Road, said later it had received 36 casualties, of whom six were critically injured, 17 seriously injured and 13 had minor injuries. Julian Nettle, of St. Mary's hospital, said staff were dealing with injuries such as the loss of limbs and head wounds, as well minor injuries, including temporary hearing loss.

A woman who works in Tavistock Square said she had seen bodies lying around the bus explosion, some of them without arms or legs. "Get people down here quickly," she sobbed. She was trying to evacuate her office.

Emergency services attended to wounded passengers outside Aldgate station, and there were reports of passengers covered in soot emerging from King's Cross. Commuters came out of tunnels covered in blood.

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A passenger on the train that exploded at Edgware Road said he had seen several bodies in the wreckage, the Press Association reported.

Scotland Yard set up a casualty bureau for people to call if they were worried about loved ones. The number for people in England to call is 0870 1566 344.

Eyewitness Belinda Seabrook said she saw the explosion rip though the double-decker bus as it approached Tavistock Square, between Euston and Russell Square stations.

"I was on the bus in front and heard an incredible bang. I turned round and half the double-decker bus was in the air," she said.

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Simon Corvett, 26, from Oxford, was on the eastbound train leaving Edgware Road tube station when an explosion happened.

"All of a sudden there was this huge bang. It was absolutely deafening and all the windows shattered. The glass did not actually fall out of the windows, it just cracked. The train came to a grinding halt and everyone fell off their seats," he said.

Mr. Corvett, who works in public relations, said the commuter train was absolutely packed. He said: "There were just loads of people screaming and the carriages filled with smoke.

"You couldn't really breathe and you couldn't see what was happening. The driver came on the Tannoy and said, 'We have got a problem. Don't panic.'"

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Mr. Corvett, whose face was covered in soot, joined other passengers to force open the train doors with a fire extinguisher. He said the carriage on the other track was destroyed. "You could see the carriage opposite was completely gutted. There were some people in real trouble."

Eyewitnesses reported "multiple casualties" at Liverpool Street. A spokesman for the Airport Express Alliance, which operates the Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express and Stansted Express train services said: "They are operating on injured people on the concourse at Liverpool Street station."

One witness who had been in a train at the time of the explosions reported seeing "bodies everywhere" in the carriages and limbs lying on the floor. Emergency services reported several injuries.

The total shutdown of the London Underground system is thought to be unprecedented.

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The public were warned to stay clear of London for non-essential journeys. A Network Rail spokesman said southbound services into the capital were terminating at Watford, with no onward bus transfers, but services began to resume later in the day.

Tim O'Toole of London Underground said he aimed to have the tube back in service tomorrow, though some lines would be severely curtailed.


Mark Oliver

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