A series of deadly explosions ripped through the London subway system Thursday morning during rush hour, killing at least 37 people and injuring hundreds. Police quickly shut down the entire subway system and evacuated all stations following what were at least four explosions, which also included a double-decker bus that was torn apart by a bomb in Central London.
In a brief statement several hours after the incidents, British Prime Minister Tony Blair categorized the explosions as a "series of terrorist attacks," saying that he believes the bombings were meant to disrupt the G8 meeting taking place 500 miles away in Gleneagles, Scotland (see "What Is The G8, Anyway?").
"It's particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long-term problems of climate change in the environment," said Blair, who is leaving the G8 Summit to confer with police, but is expected to return later Thursday. "It's important, however, that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. ... Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations throughout the world."
Initial reports blamed the explosions on a massive power surge, but as the story developed, officials said that it appeared bombs had been placed in a number of locations and timed to explode during the rush-hour commute.
London Metro Police spokesperson Brian Paddick said that the police service had received no warning about the attacks and there have been no official claims of responsibility from any group in connection with the attacks. "This clearly was a callous attack on purely innocent members of the public deliberately designed to kill and injure innocent members of the public," Paddick said. He said he was aware of an unconfirmed claim of responsibility by a previously unknown group calling itself the Secret Group of al Qaeda's Jihad in Europe, which appeared in a web posting Thursday morning and was reportedly sent to several news agencies.
British army officers took to the streets in the aftermath to help secure the areas around the scenes and deter any further attacks. The incident occurred just one day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics and less than 24 hours after the beginning of the G8 Summit, which is being hosted by Blair.
President Bush, who arrived at the G8 Summit yesterday, expressed his condolences and praised Blair for his "steadfast determination and strength." The president, who had a secure video conference with Homeland Security officials following the attacks, urged American commuters to be "extra vigilant" on their way to work Thursday.
"The contrast between what's taking place in London and what's taking place [at the G8 conference] is incredibly vivid to me," Bush said. "On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you got people killing innocent people. The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the heart of those of us who care deeply about human rights and liberty and those who kill, who've got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks."
Bush said the G8 leaders stated they will continue to fight terrorism. "We will find them, we will bring them to justice and at the same time we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate," he said. Though the terror alert was not raised in the U.S. as a result of the attacks, the subway system in Washington, D.C. deployed bomb-sniffing dogs and armed police within hours and other major cities reportedly beefed up security on their transit systems. Amtrak raised the alert level on all its U.S. routes as well.
The blasts occurred at the Aldgate station (8:51 a.m. London time), near the Liverpool Street railway terminal, where seven were killed; at King's Cross/Russell Square in central London (8:56 a.m.), where 21 are confirmed dead; and Edgware Road in north London (9:17 a.m.), which resulted in five deaths when a bomb exploded on a train and blew a hole through a wall affecting two other trains. In total, more than 45 people have been treated for critical or serious injuries — described by an official as burns, amputations, blast injuries and fractures — and more than 300 for minor lacerations, smoke inhalation, shock and cuts.
A double-decker bus that exploded near Russell Square near the British Museum (9:47 a.m.) was believed to have resulted in fatalities, and at least two other buses are thought to have been struck as well, though officials said no information was available at press time.
An official described the bus to CNN as has having been torn open, "like a tin can," and eyewitnesses said the scene in the subway was one of sheer terror, as trains filled with smoke and soot and panicked riders covered in blood screamed as emergency lights came on and windows were shattered in attempts to escape the sealed train cars.
"I was on the bus in front and heard an incredible bang, I turned round and half the double-decker bus was in the air," Belinda Seabrook told the British Press Association. She said the bus was packed with people and there was "a massive explosion, and there were papers and half a bus flying through the air."
Police spokesperson Paddick said it is unclear if the explosions were set off by suicide bombers or by packages left in the subway, and there is no indication that anything other than conventional explosives were used. At press time there was no information on any arrests in the case. "We are treating this as a terrorist incident and keeping an open mind as to who the perpetrators might be," Paddick said.
Subway passenger Bradley Anderson told Britain's Sky News that "there was some kind of explosion or something" as his train reached the Edgware Road station. "Everything went black, and we collided into some kind of oncoming train," Anderson said. Simon Tonkyn, 51, who had been traveling from Paddington station to Aldgate, in east London, told the Press Association, "There was just an enormous bang and a lot of smoke. A group of us got fire extinguishers and were able to smash through the carriage door, and I now just feel totally numb."
Simon Corvett, 26, who was on an eastbound train from Edgware Road station, said, "All of a sudden there was this massive, huge bang. It was absolutely deafening and all the windows shattered. There were just loads of people screaming and the carriages filled with smoke. You couldn't really breathe, and you couldn't see what was happening. You could see the carriage [train car] opposite was completely gutted. There were some people in real trouble."
Blair stressed that the G8 leaders would continue their talks in his absence and that he would rejoin them once he assessed the situation in London.
For continuing coverage of the London bombings, head to CBSNews.com.
[This story was originally published at 8:03 a.m. EDT on 07.07.2005]