London attacked again; police confirm 4 blasts
3 subway stations, bus hit by small explosions; Blair appeals for calm
MSNBC | July 21, 2005
LONDON - Explosions struck three London Underground stations and a bus at midday Thursday in a chilling but less deadly replay of the suicide bombings that killed 56 people two weeks ago.
Only one person was reported wounded, but the lunch-hour explosions caused major shock and disruption in the capital and were hauntingly similar to the July 7 bombings by four attackers.
The London police commissioner confirmed Thursday that four explosions took place in what he described as “a very serious incident.”
“We’ve had four explosions — four attempts at explosions,” Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said outside police headquarters at Scotland Yard.
“At the moment the casualty numbers appear to be very low ... the bombs appear to be smaller” than those detonated July 7.
At a news gathering, Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed for calm. He said the people behind the incidents are trying to "scare people" and "make them anxious."
Blair said police were hoping to get the city's transit system "back to normal as quickly as possible."
Minutes before the prime minister spoke, police with their weapons drawn escorted a man away from the gates at the end of Downing Street.
A police officer drew a firearm and aimed it at a target beyond the range of television cameras. Another officer then led away a man whose black shirt was undone. The man also wore black trousers and appeared to be of Asian or Middle Eastern origin.
Meantime, police were searching a London hospital Thursday for a man wearing a blue shirt with wires protruding from a hole in the back, a TV report said.
An internal memo at University College Hospital in north London urged staff to watch for the man, described as a black or Asian male, about 6-feet-2, Sky News television reported.
One witness told Sky TV that a fellow subway passenger told him a backpack exploded at the Warren Street station and there were reports of smoke.
Sky TV reported that police said no chemical agents were involved in the explosions.
Explosions also were reported at the Shepherds Bush and Oval stations.
Emergency teams were sent to all three stations after the incidents, which began at 12:38 p.m.
Witnesses said they had seen what could have been a would-be bomber running away after dropping a rucksack on one of the trains.
“We all got off on the platform and the guy just ran and started running up the escalator,” one witness who gave her name as Andrea told the BBC.
“Everyone was screaming for someone to stop him. He ran past me...and he ran out of the station. In fact he left a bag on the train,” she said.
Passengers were evacuated off a bus in Hackney, east London, and police cordoned off streets nearby. The bus company said a blast blew out the windows of the bus but a police officer on the scene said there were no signs of damage.
A police officer told Reuters: “The bus driver heard a bang at the back of the bus. He thought it was probably a vehicle that had hit him.
“He stopped at a nearby bus stop and saw a suspect package at the back of the bus.”
The fire brigade put on protective clothing before moving towards the bus.
Closed-circuit TV cameras on Hackney Road showed the No. 26 bus immobilized at a stop with its indicator lights flashing. The area around the bus had been cordoned off.
The incidents paralleled the blasts two weeks ago, which involved explosions at three Underground stations simultaneously — quickly followed by a blast on a bus. Those bombings, during the morning rush hour, also occurred in the center of London, hitting the Underground railway from various directions.
Thursday’s incidents, however, were more geographically spread out.
London Ambulance said it was called to the Oval station at 12:38 p.m. and Warren Street at 12:45 p.m. The July 7 attacks began at 8:51 a.m.
“People were panicking. But very fortunately the train was only 15 seconds from the station,” witness Ivan McCracken told Sky news.
McCracken said another passenger at Warren Street claimed he had seen a backpack explode. The bombs which killed 56 people on board three underground trains and a bus in London on July 7 were carried in backpacks, police said.
Smell of smoke
McCracken said he smelled smoke and that people were panicking and coming into his carriage. He said he spoke to an Italian man who was comforting a woman after the evacuation.
“He said that a man was carrying a rucksack and the rucksack suddenly exploded. It was a minor explosion but enough to blow open the rucksack,” McCracken said.
“The man then made an exclamation as if something had gone wrong. At that point everyone rushed from the carriage.”
Services were shut across the Underground system, which serves 3 million Londoners daily.
“I was in the carriage and we smelt smoke -— it was like something was burning,” said Losiane Mohellavi, 35, who was evacuated at Warren Street.
“Everyone was panicked and people were screaming. We had to pull the alarm. I am still shaking,” Mohellavi said.
He told The Associated Press he did not see smoke but rather smelled something similar to an electrical fire.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.