London attacks kill dozens as world leaders meet
By Mike Collett-White and Trevor Datson
LONDON (Reuters) - Four blasts tore through packed London underground trains and a bus on Thursday, killing at least 37 people in the British capital's deadliest peacetime attack and disrupting a summit of world leaders.
Police put the death toll from the morning rush hour attack at 37. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy later quoted Britain's government as saying 50 people had been killed.
Around 700 people were wounded, financial markets plummeted before partially recovering and Prime Minister Tony Blair rushed to London from a meeting of the leaders of the Group of Eight rich nations in Scotland after branding the attacks "barbaric."
He returned to the summit later, pledging not to allow the attacks to thwart moves to fight African poverty and climate change. He was due back in London on Friday.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the attacks bore all the hallmarks of the Islamic militant al Qaeda network responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Three explosions caused carnage on underground trains as Londoners made their way to work. The top was also ripped off a double-decker bus near Russell Square in the heart of the city.
"The scene afterwards was horrible: pieces of body on the ground," said Ayobami Bello, a 42-year-old security guard who was near the bus.
Police said seven people were killed on an underground train near Liverpool Street, 21 were confirmed dead in another near King's Cross and seven died at Edgware Road. At least two passengers on the bus were killed.
Passengers stumbled through smoke-filled carriages deep underground to escape the trains after the blasts.
"It was horrific. There was smoke everywhere. I couldn't breathe," said Joe Witalls at Edgware Road station.
A previously unknown group, "Secret Group of al Qaeda's Jihad in Europe," claimed responsibility but police said it was too early to say whether suicide bombers were involved.
Brian Paddick, assistant deputy commissioner of London police, told reporters no warning had been received.
The scenes of shocked, bloodied and wounded commuters were in stark contrast to the jubilant crowds who flocked the streets on Wednesday after London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games.
London had not seen such an attack since a car bomb in 2001 blamed on a Irish republican splinter group, but it had been on high alert since Sept. 11, 2001. Police had said it was just a matter of time before the British capital was hit.
President Bush, speaking at the G8 summit, told reporters: "We will not yield to these terrorists, we will find them, we will bring them to justice."
Britain is the closest ally of the United States in Iraq, where al Qaeda is waging a bloody insurgency. Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq after the Madrid bombings which killed 191 when 10 simultaneous bombs tore through four commuter trains.
"It has the hallmarks of an al Qaeda-related attack. The assessment is currently being made," Straw said in a round of television interviews from the G8 summit in Scotland.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission warned London Muslims to stay at home. The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents 1.6 million Muslims, called for prayers for the victims at the country's 800 mosques and urged full cooperation with police.
Italy's interior minister said all Europe was on alert. The United States raised its terrorism alert level to "high" from "elevated."
The carnage began shortly before 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) with the first blast and ended an hour and three more explosions later.
People streamed out of underground stations covered in blood and soot. Hundreds of passengers were evacuated from stations across the capital, many in shock and with their clothes ripped to shreds, witnesses said.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, speaking in Singapore where he had championed the capital's Olympic bid, suggested suicide bombers may have been involved.
Also in Singapore, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said: "I'm deeply saddened that this should happen at the heart of an Olympic city. Unfortunately there is no safe haven. No one can say their city is safe."
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was in London when the bombs went off, called the blasts an "eerie reminder" of the Sept. 11 attacks and praised the calm response.
Medics treated the wounded on train platforms and in a field hospital set up in a retail store.
Financial markets initially fell sharply as it became apparent the blasts were an attack rather than a power surge on the underground train system as was first reported.
Oil prices fell by more than 5 percent before recovering and London stocks closed around 2 percent lower. Sterling sank to a 19-month low against the dollar and stayed there.