London Death Toll Tops 50; Search on for Bodies, Answers

July 8, 2005

One day after four bombs struck at the heart of London’s morning rush hour, authorities were still finding bodies and searching for clues as the death toll has reportedly topped 50 people. Al Qaeda is still the main suspect in the bombings, which hit three trains and a double-decker bus.

Authorities were not commenting on reports that a pair of unexploded bombs were found Thursday, saying only investigations were continuing. Meantime, many Londoners stayed home Friday as the mass transit system tried to get back on track.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair returned to anchor the G8 Summit in Scotland, after rushing back to London on Thursday following the attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush was scheduled to head back to Washington, D.C. on Friday from the Summit.

As authorities continued to find bodies and other evidence from the blasts, one official said that more deaths were possible as nearly two dozen people remained in critical condition in British hospitals.

Police reported that no survivors were trapped underground and the task now was to retrieve the dead. One police source reported that there could be at least a dozen bodies still underground.

Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair reported that 13 people, not two as originally noted, were killed in the bus blast at Tavistock Square.

Meantime, Thursday’s terrorist attacks in London, timed to coincide with the G8 meeting, have the hallmarks of coordinated Islamic militant terrorist attacks, according to terrorism risk analysts at Risk Management Solutions (RMS).

As part of its ongoing research into the terrorism threat, RMS analysts had participated in meetings organized by the UK cabinet office and Scotland Yard earlier this year. “The threat of an attack on London transport was always one of the more likely scenarios under consideration,” commented Dr. Andrew Coburn, director of terrorism research at RMS. “It was designed to cause the maximum amount of casualties, fear, economic disruption and media attention while using comparatively small-scale attack devices.”

The modus operandi for these attacks was very similar in characteristics to the Madrid bombings of 11 March 2004, and consistent with risk analysis methodologies used in the company’s models of terrorist behavior and target prioritization. Among these characteristics are:

* Use of nearly synchronous swarm attacks, which allows terrorists to maximize damage before security services and the public are able to respond effectively.

* Use of conventional explosives, which bear a much lower logistical burden for terrorist groups.

* Selection of soft targets and the game theory principle of target substitution: the G8 venue in Gleneagles was much too hard to attack; it was easier to strike the weakly protected transport infrastructure in London.

* Prioritization of capital cities with universal name recognition, to maximize the symbolic and political impact of the attack.

Editor’s note: For more on the bombings, see International News.

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