The 7 July 2005 London bombings (also called the 7/7 bombings) were a series of coordinated bomb blasts that hit London's public transport system during the morning rush hour. Carried out by British Islamist extremists, the suicide bombings were motivated by Britain's involvement in the Iraq War and other conflicts. At 8:50 a.m., three bombs exploded within fifty seconds of each other on three London Underground trains. A fourth bomb exploded on a bus nearly an hour later at 9:47 a.m. in Tavistock Square. The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four suicide bombers, injured 700, and caused disruption of the city's transport system (severely for the first day) and the country's mobile telecommunications infrastructure. The series of suicide-bomb explosions constituted the largest and deadliest terrorist attack on London's transit system in its history.
08:50 — Three bombs on the London Underground exploded within fifty seconds of each other:
It was originally thought that there had been six, rather than three, explosions on the Underground. The bus bombing brought the reported total to seven; however, this error was corrected later that day. This was because the blasts occurred on trains that were between stations, causing the wounded to emerge from both stations, giving the impression that there was an incident at each station. Police also revised the timings of the tube blasts: initial reports had indicated that they occurred over a period of almost half an hour. This was due to initial confusion at London Underground, where the explosions were initially thought to be due to a power surge. One initial report, in the minutes after the explosions, involved a person under a train, while another concerned a derailment (both of which did actually occur, but only as a result of the explosions). A Code Amber Alert was declared at 09:19, and London Underground began to shut down the network, bringing trains into stations and suspending all services. The effects of the bombs are thought to have varied due to the differing characteristics of the tunnels.
Earlier, the bus had passed through the King's Cross area as it travelled from Hackney Wick to Marble Arch. At Marble Arch, the bus turned around and started the return route from Marble Arch to Hackney Wick. It left Marble Arch at 09:00 a.m. and arrived at Euston bus station at 09:35 a.m., where crowds of people had been evacuated from the tube and were boarding buses. The bus was diverted from its normal route by police, allegedly because of road closures in the King's Cross area.. People who had been evacuated from the Underground were continuing to board the bus. At the time of the explosion the bus was travelling through Tavistock Square at the point where it joins Upper Woburn Place.
The explosion ripped the roof off the top deck of the vehicle and destroyed the back of the bus. Witnesses reported seeing "half a bus flying through the air".
The detonation took place close to the British Medical Association building on Upper Woburn Place, and a number of doctors in or near the building were able to provide immediate emergency medical assistance. BBC Radio 5 and The Sun newspaper later reported that two injured bus passengers said that they saw a man exploding in the bus. News reports have identified Hasib Hussain as the person with the bomb on the bus.
The bus bomb exploded towards the rear of the vehicle's top deck, totally destroying that portion of it but leaving the front of the bus intact. Most of the passengers at the front of the top deck are believed to have survived, as did those on the front of the lower deck including the driver, but those at the top and lower rear of the bus took the brunt of the explosion. The extreme physical damage caused to the victims' bodies resulted in a lengthy delay in announcing the death toll from the bombing while the police determined how many bodies were present and whether the bomber was one of them. A number of passers-by were also injured by the explosion and surrounding buildings were damaged by fragments.
Two more suspicious packages were found on underground trains and were destroyed using controlled explosions. Police later said they were not bombs.
Coincidentally Visor Consultants were running an exercise based on a similar scenario to what actually happened, according to Peter Power in a radio interview with BBC Live Five:
BBC Radio - Drills Ran on day of london bombings 7-7-05:
The first reports suggested that a power surge in the Underground power grid had caused explosions in power circuits. This was later ruled out by the National Grid, the power suppliers. Commentators suggested that the explanation had arisen because of bomb damage to power lines along the tracks; the rapid series of power failures caused by the explosions (or power being cut off by means of switches at the locations to permit evacuation) looked similar, from the point of view of a control room operator, to a cascading series of circuit breaker operations that would result from a major power surge.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair stated within a couple of hours of the explosions that he believed that they were "probably a major terrorist attack." He also indicated that police had found indications of explosives at one of the blast sites, though he would not speculate on who might have carried out the attack. The investigation thus concentrated on possible terrorist suspects.
Fifty-six people, including the four suicide bombers, were killed in the attacks and about 700 were injured, of whom about 100 required overnight hospital treatment or more. The incident was the deadliest single act of terrorism in the United Kingdom since Lockerbie (the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270), and the deadliest bombing in London since the Second World War. More people were killed in the bombings than in any single Provisional IRA attack (in Great Britain or Ireland) during the Troubles.
Police investigators identified four men whom they alleged had in fact been suicide bombers. This would make the 7 July incident the first suicide bombings in Western Europe. The then French Interior Minister (Later to become French President) Nicolas Sarkozy caused consternation at the British Home Office when he briefed the press that one of the names had been described the previous year at an Anglo-French security meeting as an asset of British Intelligence. The then Home Secretary Charles Clarke later said that this was "not his recollection, to say the least".
Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA's anti-terrorism centre, told The Guardian that "two unexploded bombs" were recovered as well as "mechanical timing devices", although this claim was explicitly rejected by the Metropolitan Police.
It has been reported that the intention was to have four explosions on the Underground forming a cross of fire with arms in the four cardinal directions, possibly centered symbolically at King's Cross. It was said that one bomber was turned away from the Underground as the explosions had already started, and took a bus instead. It is also speculated that the fourth bomber meant to take the Northern Line. Whilst it has been widely reported that the Northern line was suspended, it was in fact serving all destinations at the time of the attacks, having previously been part suspended because of a faulty train. Northern Line trains were, however, extremely crowded as a result of the earlier disruption.
The Underground bombs exploded when trains were crossing, thus affecting two trains with each explosion. This is one of the features which led rapidly to the suspicion of a terrorist attack by suicide bombers as the cause of the explosions.
It is not clear why the bombers carried identifying items, which led to the discovery of the bomb factory in Leeds. The bomb factory appears to have been intended for future use and a number of other explosive devices are said to have been found in the bombers' car at Luton station. In addition, the bombers bought return tickets to London from Luton. This has led to speculation that the bombers may have expected to survive the attacks, perhaps having been misled about the time that they had to escape or the nature of the devices that they were carrying.
The first three bombs exploded within 50 seconds of each other, suggesting that a timing device or remote activation was used. It is believed that mobile phones were used to remotely detonate the Madrid train bombs, either by using the phones' alarm function or by calling the phone. The former method would work in the London Underground, but the bombs could not have been detonated by calling the phones as mobile phone signals are not available. As of 19 July 2005, no forensic evidence of either of these mechanisms had been made public, making a manual detonation likely.
A police press conference on 12 July provided further details on the progress of the investigation. Investigators focused on a group of four men, three of whom were from Leeds, West Yorkshire, and were reported as being primarily cleanskins, meaning previously unknown to authorities. On 7 July 2005, all four travelled to Luton in Bedfordshire by car, then to London by train. They were recorded on CCTV arriving at King's Cross station at about 08:30 a.m. Property associated with the men was found at the site of the explosions. On 12 July the BBC reported that Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism chief, had said that the property of one of the bombers had been found at both the Aldgate and Edgware Road blasts.
According to West Yorkshire police, a significant amount of explosive material was found in the raids in Leeds and a controlled explosion was carried out at one of the properties. Explosives were also found in the vehicle associated with one of the bombers Shehzad Tanweer at Luton railway station and subjected to controlled explosions.
The following men are stated to have carried out the attacks:
When the Luton cell was broken up, one of the London bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan (no known relation), was briefly scrutinised by MI5 who determined that he was not a likely threat and he was not put under surveillance.
Three of those arrested, including Patel, were released on 15 May 2007. The fourth, Khalid Khaliq, an unemployed single father of three, was charged with possessing an al-Qaeda training manual on 17 July 2005, but this charge was not related to the 7 July bombing. The possession of a document containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence.
Before the release of these tapes, it had been already speculated that the Iraq War was a motivation for the bombers. Soon after the attacks, 28 July 2005, the Defence Editor for the Times Online, Michael Evans reported that MI5 analysts were admitting links between the Iraq war and the London Transport bombings:
In the opinion of former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, before the identity of the bombers became known, the bombers were almost certainly born or based in Britain. The attacks would have required extensive preparation and prior reconnaissance efforts, and a familiarity with bomb-making and the London transport network as well as access to significant amounts of bomb-making equipment and chemicals.
Some newspaper editorials in Iran have blamed the bombing on British or American authorities seeking to further justify their War on Terrorism, and have claimed that the plan that included the bombings also involved increasing harassment of Muslims in Europe.
On 13 August 2005 The Independent newspaper reported, quoting police and MI5 sources, that the 7 July bombers acted independently of an al-Qaeda terror mastermind someplace abroad.
On 1 September 2005, al-Qaeda Al-Qaida claims responsibility for London 7/7 bombings for the attacks in a videotape aired on the Arab television network al Jazeera.
An official inquiry by the British government reported that the tape claiming responsibility had been edited after the attacks, and that the bombers had no direct support from al Qaeda.
Within hours after the attack, someone using the name "Nur al-Iman" and identified as a "new guest", posted a statement on the Al-Qal3ah website which claimed responsibility on behalf of "The Secret Organisation Group of Al-Qaeda of Jihad Organisation in Europe". The following is a translation of the statement:
The term ghazw, here translated as "raid", has historically often been used in Islamic contexts with the connotations of an attack on the enemies of an Islamic state seen as a meritorious act; those who carry out such attacks (ghazawat) are called ghazis.
This anonymous post has come under dispute as MSNBC TV translator Jacob Keryakes noted that the claim of responsibility contained an error in one of the Quranic verses it cited. That suggests that the claim may be phony, he said. "This is not something al-Qaida would do," he said.
Many other countries raised their own terror alert status (for example: Canada, United States, France, and Germany), especially for public transport. For a time US commanders ordered troops based in the UK to avoid London.
Police sniper units were reported to be following as many as a dozen Al Qaeda suspects in Britain. The covert armed teams were under orders to shoot to kill if surveillance suggested that a terror suspect was carrying a bomb and he refused to surrender if challenged.
Vodafone reported that its mobile phone network reached capacity at about 10:00 a.m. on the day of the incident, and it was forced to initiate emergency procedures to prioritise emergency calls (ACCOLC, the "access overload control scheme"). Other mobile phone networks also reported failures. The BBC speculated that the phone system was closed by the security services to prevent the possibility of mobile phones being used to trigger bombs. Although this option was considered, it later became clear that the intermittent unavailability of both mobile and landline phone systems were due to excessive usage.
For most of the day, central London's public transport system was effectively crippled because of the complete closure of the underground system, the closure of the Zone 1 bus networks, and the evacuation of Russell Square. Bus services restarted at 4 p.m. the same day, and most mainline train stations reopened shortly after. Tourist river vessels were pressed into service to provide a free alternative to the overcrowded trains and buses. Local Lifeboats were called in to act as safety boats, including the Sheerness Lifeboat from the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. Thousands of people chose to walk home or make their way to the nearest Zone 2 bus or train station. Most of the Underground apart from the affected stations restarted the next morning, though some commuters chose to stay at home.
Much of King's Cross station was also closed, with the ticket hall and waiting area being used as a makeshift hospital to treat casualties on the spot. Although the station reopened later in the day, only suburban rail services were able to use it, with GNER trains terminating at Peterborough (the service was fully restored on 9 July). King's Cross St. Pancras tube station remained open only to Metropolitan Line services in order to facilitate the ongoing recovery and investigation effort for a week, though Victoria Line services were restored on 15 July and Northern Line services on 18 July. St. Pancras Station, located next to King's Cross, was shut on Thursday afternoon with all Midland Mainline trains terminating in Leicester disrupting services to Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby.
By 25 July there were still disruptions to the Piccadilly Line (which was not running between Arnos Grove and Hyde Park Corner in either direction), the Hammersmith & City Line (which was only running a shuttle service between Hammersmith and Paddington) and the Circle Line (which was suspended in its entirety). The Metropolitan line resumed services between Moorgate and Aldgate on 25 July. The Hammersmith and City was also operating a peak hours service between Whitechapel and Baker Street. Most of the tube network was however running normally.
On 2 August the Hammersmith & City Line resumed normal service; the Circle Line service was still suspended, though all Circle Line stations are also served by other lines. The Piccadilly Line service resumed on 4 August.
US market indexes rose slightly, in part because the dollar index rose sharply against the pound and the euro. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 31.61 to 10,302.29. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 7.01 to 2075.66. The S&P 500 rose 2.93 points to 1197.87 after declining up to 1%. Every benchmark gained 0.3%.
The markets picked up again on 8 July as it became clear that the damage caused by the bombings was not as great as initially thought. By close of trading the market had fully recovered to above its level at start of trading on 7 July. Insurers in the UK tend to re-insure their terrorist liabilities in excess of the first £75,000,000 with Pool Re, a mutual insurer set up by the government with leading insurers. Pool Re has substantial reserves and newspaper reports indicated that claims would easily be covered.
On 9 July, the Bank of England, HM Treasury and the Financial Services Authority revealed that they had instigated contingency plans immediately after the attacks to ensure that the UK financial markets could keep trading. This involved the activation of a "secret chatroom" on the British Government's Financial Sector Continuity website, which allowed the institutions to communicate with the country's banks and market dealers.
Rolling news coverage of the attacks was broadcast throughout 7 July, by both BBC One and ITV1 uninterrupted until 7pm. Sky News did not carry any advertisements for 24 hours. ITN later confirmed that its coverage on ITV1 was its longest uninterrupted on-air broadcast in its 50 year history. Television coverage was notable for the use of mobile phone video sent in from members of the public and live shots from traffic CCTV cameras. Local and national radio also generally either suspended regular programming for news reports, or provided regular updates as part of scheduled shows.
Many films and drama broadcasts were cancelled or postponed on grounds of taste. For example, BBC Radio 4 pulled its scheduled Classic Serial without explanation; it was to have been John Buchan's Greenmantle, about the revolt of Muslims against British interests abroad. ITV replaced the movies The X Files, in which a building is partly destroyed by a bomb, with Stakeout, and The Siege, where a bomb destroys a bus full of passengers, with Gone in 60 Seconds. Even the BBC flagship soap EastEnders was forced to re-edit that night's episode, which contained a sequence involving a house explosion, ambulances and survivors choking from smoke inhalation. Big Brother 2005 that was going on at the time decided against telling the housemates of the day's attacks after the producers found out that all relatives and friends of the housemates were well. Sky One broadcast an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in place of Terror Attacks: Could You Survive ...?. Also, Viacom-owned music channels MTV, VH1, TMF and all their sub-channels broadcasted a 'sombre' music playlist for the rest of the day, and into some of the next (the MTV studios were situated in Camden Town, close to some of the bomb sites). A two-part episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, directed by Quentin Tarantino and concerning a suicide bomber, and being trapped underground, due to be shown on 12 July on Five, was postponed for a week.
The bbc.co.uk website recorded an all time bandwidth peak of 11 Gb/s at 12:00 on 7 July. BBC News received some 1 billion total hits on the day of the event (including all images, text and HTML), serving some 5.5 terabytes of data. At peak times during the day there were 40,000 page requests per second for the BBC News website. The previous day's announcement of the 2012 Olympics being awarded to London caused a peak of around 5 Gb/s. The previous all time high at bbc.co.uk was caused by the announcement of the Michael Jackson verdict, which used 7.2 Gb/s.
On Tuesday 12 July it was reported that the far-right political party, the British National Party, released leaflets showing images of the "Number 30 Bus" after it was blown up. The slogan "Maybe now it's time to start listening to the BNP" was printed beside the photo. Then Home Secretary Charles Clarke described it as an attempt by the BNP to, "cynically exploit the current tragic events in London to further their spread of hatred". In several countries outside the United Kingdom, governments and media outlets perceived that the UK government was lenient towards radical Islamist militants (as long as they were involved in activities outside of the UK), as well as the UK's refusal to extradite or prosecute suspects of terror acts committed outside of the UK, led to London being sometimes called Londonistan, and have called these purported policies into question. Such policies were believed to be a cynical attempt of quid pro quo: the UK allegedly exchanged an absence of attacks on its soil against toleration.
The article reports that the attack was planned probably with a budget of only a few hundred pounds by four men using information from the internet. While they had visited Pakistan, there was no direct support or planning by al-Qaeda; meetings in Pakistan were ideological, rather than practical. All four bombers died in the suicide bombings. While there was a search for a fifth suspect after police found an unused rucksack of explosives in the bombers' abandoned car at Luton station, there was no fifth bomber.
While the videotape of Mohammed Sidique Khan released after the attacks had footage of Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Home Office believes the tape was edited after the suicide attacks and dismisses it as evidence of al-Qaeda's involvement in the attacks.
Khan was the ringleader. Links to other suspected terrorists are not discussed for legal reasons. The bombers-to-be followed an extreme interpretation of Islam, and they, in particular Jermaine Lindsay, were happy to enjoy a Western lifestyle. The attacks were largely motivated by concerns over British foreign policy, seen as deliberately anti-Muslim, and the promise of immortality.
The report does not say why no action was taken against the suspect bombers beforehand, although Mohammed Sidique Khan was identified by intelligence officers months before the attack. A separate report into the attacks by the Commons intelligence and security committee will ask why MI5 did not maintain surveillance of Khan.
They were the second-deadliest terrorist attack in the UK, after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (270 dead). Other terrorist bombings in recent history include the 1998 Omagh bombing (29 dead) and the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings (21 dead). The 2005 attacks are the first coordinated suicide bombings perpetrated by Islamic Extremists in the history of London. The three train bombings, with a total of 39 dead, constitute one of the deadliest incidents in the peacetime history of the London Underground, with more casualties than the King's Cross fire of November 1987 (31 dead), but fewer than the Moorgate tube crash of February 1975 (43 dead) and the wartime bombings of Balham station (14 October 1940) - 65 dead, and Bank station (11 January 1941) - 56 dead, or the panic crush during an air raid at Bethnal Green station on 3 March 1943 when 173 people lost their lives.
The London Underground had been targeted by bombers before. In January 1885 a bomb exploded on a Metropolitan Line train at Gower Street (now Euston Square) station, and in February 1913 a crude bomb - probably the work of Suffragettes - was discovered at Westbourne Park station. Bombs planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded at Tottenham Court Road and Leicester Square station on 3 February 1939. In August and December 1973 the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) left several explosive devices in the tube network, and again in February and March 1976. On 4 March 1976, eight people were injured by a bomb in Cannon Street; 11 days later, nine people were injured by a premature explosion at West Ham tube station. Seconds after that incident, Julius Stephen, the driver of the train, was shot dead when he attempted to pursue the fleeing bomber. On the same day, a further device found at Oxford Circus station was defused, while on March 18 another bomb exploded on an empty train at Wood Green station as it was preparing to enter the reversing siding there.
The 2005 attack featured the most explosions in a single terrorist incident in a UK city since Bloody Friday in Belfast in July 1972 (22 bombs planted). They were the world's deadliest attack on a public transport system since the Madrid train bombings of 11 March 2004 (191 dead), although the March 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway injured far more people.
There has only been one other bomb explosion on a London bus in recent times: on 18 February 1996 at Wellington Street near Aldwych, in which the only fatality was the IRA member transporting the device. This was thought to have been the result of the accidental detonation of a bomb that he intended to plant elsewhere, rather than a suicide attack.
The 2005 attacks were the first terrorist (i.e. politically motivated) killings in London since 30 April 1999, when the neo-Nazi David Copeland nailbombed the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in a homophobic attack, killing three people. They were also the first suicide bombings carried out anywhere in Western Europe.
In 1995, the GIA Islamist militant group staged a series of attacks against the French public, targeting public transportation. These attacks killed 8 and injured more than 100. The attacks were apparently designed to be a broadening of the civil war in Algeria, a former French colony.