At approximately ten to nine this morning London was rocked by a series of explosions in underground trains. Blasts were reported at Aldgate East, Edgware Rd, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, Moorgate and Russell Square tube stations. A bus was ripped apart at Tavistock Square and London’s transport network was paralysed. The capital was in a state of chaos. Scotland Yard declared the emergency a “major incident”. The Home Secretary Charles Clarke reported that the explosions had caused “terrible injuries”.
Eyewitnesses reported “multiple casualties” at Liverpool Street. One witness who had been in a train at the time of the explosions reported seeing bodies everywhere in the carriages and limbs lying on the floor. She said the carriage where an explosion happened was “black on the inside”. She saw people who appeared to have their clothes blown off, and she saw bodies lying inside the carriage.
There were many more stories of horror. Shocked passengers spoke of victims covered in blood. People were seen streaming out of one underground station covered with blood and soot. Passengers were evacuated from stations across the capital, many in shock and with their clothes ripped to shreds. Hospitals have said they are no longer accepting non-emergency cases. They report serious head injuries, loss of limbs and injuries caused by smoke inhalation.
Loyita Worley, who works for a City law firm, told the BBC she was on the underground train when an explosion took place in the next carriage, while it was in a tunnel. The 49-year-old said: “All the lights went out and the train came to an immediate halt. There was smoke everywhere and everyone was coughing and choking, but remained calm. We couldn’t open the doors.”
The entire system was shut down and major thoroughfares were blocked off by police and ambulance services. Police sealed off large areas around other underground and mainline rail stations. Firemen donned chemical protection suits before rushing into stations. Emergency services crews were attending wounded passengers outside Aldgate station, and there were reports of passengers covered in soot emerging from King’s Cross.
British Transport Police initially attributed the explosions to power surges but the electricity company later stated that nothing in the electricity supply could explain such a thing. The self-evident truth soon became clear: London was the target of a savage terrorist attack. It appears there were up to seven blasts. Officers were sent into the network to assist with rescue operations and were working at tunnel and platform level to help get people out. Travellers emerged from tunnels covered in blood. A British Transport police spokesman said that two trains remain stuck in tunnels. The effects of an explosion in a confined space, with flying shards of glass can only be imagined.
The first bomb on a bus exploded near Russell Square not long after several blasts were reported on London subways. A witness said the entire top deck of the bus was destroyed. A passenger said the bus was packed with people: “It was a massive explosion and there were papers and half a bus flying through the air,” she said. One caller to BBC Five said his friend had seen “the bus ripped open like a can of sardines and bodies everywhere”.
The causes of the incidents are so far unclear. But following the Madrid atrocity of last year, a link to the Middle East cannot be ruled out. As in Madrid, it was a well-planned coordinated attack. As in Madrid, no warning was issued. As in Madrid, the target was indiscriminate and calculated to kill and maim the maximum number of people. This has all the hallmarks of fanatics of the al-Oaeda type. Arab websites linked to al-Qaeda have apparently stated that the terrorist organization was behind the attacks. Though this has not yet been confirmed, it is entirely probable.
The explosions on the underground were timed to go off at a certain time, when a large number of ordinary working class people were travelling to work. This was then followed by an explosion on a bus. The bombings occurred one day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics and the sense of collective shock was even greater as a result of the cruel contrast with the scenes of popular jubilation the day before. It also occurred as leaders of the Group of Eight rich nations met in Scotland. It seems probable that the attack has been planned to coincide with the latter.
The London attack is intended as a message. The content of this message is quite clear: you claim that the war on terror is being won, that the world is now a safer place, and the invasion of Iraq has succeeded, but all these claims are false. The identity of the terrorists is unknown, but whoever was responsible showed no mercy to the innocent victims of their actions. Such activities are utterly repugnant to anybody who defends the cause of socialism and the working class. This kind of action serves only to bolster the forces of reaction. There is absolutely no justification for it. It must be condemned outright.
Our condemnation of terrorist atrocities has nothing in common with the hypocritical condemnations of Bush and Blair. In his statement Tony Blair said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” In the next breath he then reiterated his determination to “defeat terrorism”. These gentlemen shed no tears over the tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children slaughtered in Iraq as a result of their policies. That is also terrorism – terrorism on a far vaster and more inhuman scale. They have no moral right to condemn violence when they themselves are responsible for spreading wars and violence throughout the world in search of their own cynical agenda.
Horrific as they were, compared to the eleventh of September, the London attacks were on a relatively small scale. That was a spectacular attack that struck at the heart of the USA. But what was the end result? Only the strengthening of the most reactionary right wing elements of the ruling class, the strengthening of imperialism, the victory of George Bush, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. In cases of murder the lawyers ask the question: cui bono? – who benefits. The only people who benefit from terrorism are the worst enemies of the working class, democracy and socialism.
We condemn the methods of the terrorists not only because they slaughter innocent people. We condemn them because they play into the hands of imperialism and reaction. We condemn them because they provide all the excuses Bush and Blair need to continue their criminal policies. It is a present to those right wing elements who are trying to restrict civil rights. The police will be given new powers. The state will be strengthened. Public opinion will be softened up for new acts of repression and military aggression with the excuse of “fighting terrorism” that will, in turn, increase the risk of terrorist attacks.
This is horror without end. It is a disease that is spreading like a global pandemic from one country and continent to another. Nobody is safe. No country is secure. The speeches of the leaders to the effect that “we are going to win the war on terror” ring hollow in the face of this.
The picture is still very confused. The population is stricken by shock and grief. It is natural that people are shocked and horrified. But when the smoke from the explosions finally clears, and when minds clear, some hard questions will have to be asked. It was clearly only a matter of time before the terrorist madmen would attack London. By his actions Tony Blair has placed his people in the front line of this madness. The result was entirely predictable.
The latest atrocity may seem to demonstrate the efficacy of the methods of terrorism. A small group of fanatics with bombs can paralyse a great city. Yet in the last analysis, the terrorists cannot succeed. These insane and barbaric acts only serve the interests of imperialism. Terrorism and imperialism feed off each other. The barbarities of the one serve as the pretext for the barbarities of the other. And it is always the ordinary people who pay the price.
The mass media will now have a field day. Blair and Bush will use this atrocity to try to justify their policy in Iraq and at home. But when people begin to reflect calmly on these events they will draw very different conclusions. The war on terror has not been won. The invasion of Iraq has destabilized the whole Middle East and made many new recruits for terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda. And the world is a far more dangerous place than it was before the invasion of Iraq.