Ken Livingstone, London’s high-profile mayor, told interviewers on BBC Radio 4 that threats from terrorist attacks in the U.K.’s capital persist, but are largely disorganized. He noted that the July 7 “attackers were all homegrown,” and, taking issue with Prime Minister Tony Blair, downplayed any international connections.
Livingstone acknowledged that there had been “a couple” of attempted attacks since suicide bombers killed 52 people on the Underground and a bus in July. He said that after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. there had been eight known terrorist attempts before the July bombings.
Livingstone characterized the threat to London as coming from “fairly disorganized and small groups of disaffected people.” That doesn’t make the threat any less real. In a report issued in November the House of Commons Transport Committee warned that the U.K.’s transport systems were “highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.” The M.P.’s report notes that the “London Underground and bus bombings of 7 July were a savage reminder of current terrorist dangers,” and concluded that the “deadly threat remains current.”
While he didn’t attempt to play down the ongoing threat, the mayor stressed that the emergency response to the July attacks had functioned “like clockwork.” He noted that he and the emergency teams had spent four years planning a response to any terror attack on the capital.
London, with its highly concentrated financial services sector, including the insurance community, is a tempting target for terrorists. Although increased video surveillance and stepped up police patrols have been put in place since the July attacks, its almost impossible to assure total security on the sprawling transport system.
Authorities are concentrating efforts on perfecting their response to any future attack. In November the Treasury Department, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) organized a simulation of a terroist attack, as part of an annual crisis management exercise. “The desk-based test involved more than a thousand workers and 80 firms, and had other scenarios including natural disasters and infrastructure problems,” said a BBC report at the time. “Many companies also chose to run their own exercises alongside the main event.”
The report quoted FSA spokesperson Rob McIvor, who noted: “We had simulated casualties, areas cordoned off, evacuations, even TV reporters interviewing witnesses. Everybody has learnt lessons from the July 7 attacks.”
The results of the simulation are being evaluated by Consultants KPMG, who will report early next year on the effectiveness of the test.
The interview and comments can be heard on the BBC Website at: http://news.bbc.co.uk.
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