London Death Toll Climbs

By Terry Weber
The Globe and Mail
The number of people killed in a devastating string of co-ordinated terrorist attacks in London will be more than 50 as emergency workers continue efforts to retrieve bodies from the city's underground, police said Friday.
They also said that 13 people are now known to have died when a bomb exploded on board a double-decker bus near Tavistock Square on Thursday, tearing the upper level from the vehicle.
Previously, police had said they were not able to estimate fatalities in that prong of the terrorist attack.
London Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair also told reporters that a number of bodies remain in the tunnel near the Russell Square Underground station, which was seriously damaged in the attacks.
All survivors were removed from that location, but because of the danger posed by the state of the tunnel, the decision was made not to go back for the bodies of the dead until the tunnel has been shored up, he said.
Although the final number of dead remains unclear, he said he does not expect the total for the attacks to exceed 100. Police have put the official number of confirmed dead at 49, although that figure is likely to continue to climb.
"There is a great difficulty in deciding how many fatalities or determining how many fatalities there are," he said, during an earlier press briefing Friday.
At this stage, he said, it was impossible to say whether the attacks - the worst on London since the Second World War - were the result of a suicide bombers or whether the bombs had been planted ahead of time.
"We have absolutely nothing to suggest this was a suicide-bombing attack although there is nothing at this stage to rule that out," Sir Ian told a morning press conference.
He also said police were at the start of a "very complex" and lengthy investigation, but he vowed an "implacable" resolve to bring those responsible to justice.
The police service acknowledged that the bombings do "bear the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda attack" but also said it is too early in the investigation to reach that conclusion.
No arrests have been made.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said separately Friday that looking for the bombers was like searching for "needles in haystacks." He also said the attacks came "came completely out of the blue," with no warning.
On Thursday, the world watched in horror after four terrorist bombs exploded on one of the world's busiest transit systems, throwing central London into chaos. Political leaders quickly denounced the act as one of cowardice and vowed to hunt down those responsible.
Three of the explosions hit London's busy underground system at rush hour. A fourth tore the top level off a packed double-decker bus.
More than 700 people were injured. Of those, 350 were treated at the scene. About 100 people entered hospital overnight, with 22 people in critical condition.
The injured included citizens of at least five countries in addition to Britain - Sierra Leone, Australia, Portugal, Poland and China.
Just one day earlier, Londoners had been elated over a surprise win in the race for the 2012 Olympics.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone told reporters Friday that Londoners have lived through many difficult times in the past - including the Blitz of the Second World War - without bowing to the threat of attack.
"London always stayed open for business," Mr. Livingstone said.
He also refused to link the bombings to Britain's role in the U.S.-led war in Iraq, saying all world cities are potential targets for extremists.
"They look at a city like London and think it's an abomination because people of all races and creeds can live side-by-side in harmony, can intermarry, can work together, can share their lives and hopes and aspirations," he said. "This is the world they don't want to see."
Sir Ian echoed the mayor's sentiments.
"If London can survive the Blitz it can survive four miserable events like this," he said.
During earlier news conference on Friday, London police said they had "taken considerable note" of claims of responsibility from a group alleging ties with the al-Qaeda, which co-ordinated the devastating Sept. 11 attacks in the United States four years earlier.
They also said it was "blindingly obvious" that a terror cell is at work in Britain.
Sir Ian told reporters Friday police would "bend every sinew" to catch those responsible.
"The most important statement I can make, however, is the implacable resolve of the Metropolitan Police Service to track down those who are responsible for these terrible events," he said.
Investigators are now pouring over forensic evidence and video footage from the transit systems extensive network of surveillance cameras.
One day after the blasts, televised images for London showed residents tentatively returning to their daily life. Images, however, also showed streets - normally teeming on a Friday morning - that were relatively quiet. Officials were advising residents to remain vigilant and suggested people stay home unless absolutely necessary.
Ten of London's 12 subway lines reopened Friday, although service on three was restricted. Bus service was running through central London, except for diversions around blast sites.
Aldona Mosjko, a 21-year-old bagel shop manager from Poland, was among those too frightened to take public transportation Friday.
"Normally, I take the bus, but today, I took a taxi. I was a bit afraid," she said.
Police told reporters that, despite early reports that as many as six bombs were detonated, the evidence now suggests four devices - each carrying less than 10 pounds (four kilograms) of explosives - were set off in the attacks. The police believe the bombs on the underground were placed on the floor of subway cars.
On Friday, worried relatives also began the grim search for missing loved ones.
On the BBC, Trevor and Beverley Ellery told how they last heard from their 21-year-old son Richard via a text message just minutes before the first blast. He had been heading into the city on the morning of the attacks.
"We have had no contact since," Mr. Ellery told the news service.
The Queen and Prince Charles were both visiting casualties on Friday. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who flew home Thursday to address the nation, has returned to Scotland for the final day of the G8 summit.
"It's been one of the things that many of us have dreaded for a long time and now they have finally got through," Prince Charles said.
"What I can never get over is the incredible resilience of the British people who have set us all a fantastic example of how to react to these kinds of tragedies."
The Queen also offered words of support.
"Atrocities such as these simply reinforce our sense of community, our humanity, our trust in the rule of law. That is the clear message from us all," she told staff at the Royal London Hospital.
Speaking from the G8 site, Mr. Blair contrasted the efforts of world leaders and their vow to take on the issue of global poverty with those of the terrorists responsible for Thursday's bombings.
"It is hope that is the alternative to hatred," he said, backed by world leaders. Following this week's meetings, G8 members pledged to increase aid to Africa to $50-billion (U.S.), from the current $25-billion.
Responding to questions during the summit's final press conference, Mr. Blair laid the blame for Thursday's attacks squarely on shoulders of the bombers.
"My opinion is that those people who kill the innocent have caused such bloodshed that they're responsible and they're solely responsible," he said.
Mr. Blair was to return to London to preside over a government panel dealing with Thursday's bombings.
Around the world, other nations remained in a heightened state of alert Friday in the wake of the attacks. Immediately following Thursday's blasts in London, a group calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe" had posted a statement of responsibility for the series of blasts, saying they were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That statement also threatened further attacks on nations with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and other nations with troops in Italy and Denmark.
In Canada, Deputy Minister of Public Safety Anne McLellan said security in this country will be tightened in the wake of the bombings, which she called "a reminder that we can not be complacent."
"You see more regular law enforcement from the metropolitan police," she told CBC Newsworld.
"The RCMP will kick in their national security team. In Toronto, you will probably see more sniffer dogs. You will see more announcements for the general public because we all have a role to play in terms of reporting suspicious events, suspicious packages, and so on."
"And all those kinds of things go to a different level after an event such as London."
At this point, she said, there have been no reports of Canadian casualties in the attacks.
- With a report from Associated Press
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