"the best post on the subject [of the Stockwell shooting] so far and I agree. A must read." - Tim Worstall, August 21, 2005

"Chris at Optimus In Omnis wrote a thoughtful post in July...his more recent post describes the edginess many Londoners feel" - BBC News Online, August 22, 2005

Sunday, July 24, 2005

This time the decision was wrong, but there will be a time when it is right

Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year old electrician orginally from the slums of Brazil, is the latest victim of the terrorist atrocities that have plagued London over the past two-and-a-half weeks; he was, however, not killed by a bomb. Instead, in a case of mistaken identity, three plain-clothed police officers hunted him down and killed him with five gunshots to the head.

While undoubtedly the police are partly to blame for this terrible faux-pas, one must also ask why exactly Menezes ran from officers when challenged. Some believe because of his upbringing in the state of Minas Gerais, Menezes had become wary of anyone wielding a gun, believing that because of their casual clothes that they may have been criminals; others say that he may have thought he was part of another attack on the London Underground, and fled in fear, trying to avoid the merciless killing that would have ensued.

Of course, this terrible killing of an innocent man will only add further fuel to the fire that is the 'us vs. them' mentality that is in the minds of many British muslims, already concerned about the imposing of a police affidavit that any suspicious people with possible connections to terrorism must be 'shot to kill.' The terrorist groups already in Britain, planning their next foray into the realm of destruction, will now only be further enraged that a whole religion has been seemingly pigeon-holed, and there will surely be recompense for the Metropolitan police's actions which will be more vicious than even before. Those who sit on the fence, especially young Muslims, disappointed by the fact that their society as a whole has been painted as one which harbours bringers of grief and death secretly, may very well be pushed over the edge towards the side of extremists, and side with the cause of the jihad that a select few are waging against our people on our shores.

There was, however, no other way that the police could have handled the situation. This man was seen coming from a suspected terrorist haven, wearing unusual clothing and acting in a most suspicious manner. If Menezes was indeed a terrorist, and beneath his blue jacket was a pack of explosives, with yet more 'mother of Satan' languishing in a bathtub in the London flat which he came from, waiting for another extremist willing to give his life to his cause, there would have been an uproar that a third attack had been allowed to go ahead. The police would have come under severe scrutiny for their oversight in observing these suspects.

Sadly, there is no right or wrong way to handle situations of this kind - the police must be praised for their assurance that this man was a threat to society, but, by the same token, they must be admonished for killing an innocent man based on completely incorrect surveillance information. 'Suspicion' is not a word that can be used when dealing with a threat such as this: a decision must be made, and it must be made quickly. Unfortunately, this time it was the wrong one. There may come a time in the near future when a decision like this needs to be made again, and this time, turns out to be made correctly.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mile End tube station alert

11:17am: An incident at Mile End tube station - traffic halted around the station, with the police believing that this incident is not, in fact, related to the events on the 21st or 22nd. Earlier this morning, a second man connected to the previous incidents was arrested in London. Roughly 100 people were spotted walking east, possibly from an evacuation of the station.

11:28am: Due to a "customer incident" at Mile End underground station various sections of the London Underground were shut down, including sections of the Central line. Various passengers reported smelling a foul smell before being evacuated.

11:32am: Mile End station was reopened after a man was taken away for questioning: police stated that the man voluntarily gave himself up to questioning, and has not been arrested.

Friday, July 22, 2005

And it continues... (22/7 Journal)

11:07am: With at least three, possibly four would-be suicide bombers currently on the run, no doubt angered by their failure to injure or kill anybody with their actions yesterday, it seemed inevitable that there would be another strike within a short time. Knowing that because of their attempts to flee from the tube stations yesterday, and the overwhelming number of CCTV cameras that patrol the entire city, that they were most likely to be identified within days, it seems obvious that the police were in a chase with the terrorists. The net closing in on the attackers, they only had a few days in which to cause maximumdamage which they aimed to do yesterday. Whether they were killed or not in accomplishing their acts of destruction, death at the expense of others would be a better fate in their eyes than being arrested after days on the run in London.

At Stockwell station, a little after 10am, witnesses reported five shots fired from armed police officers towards a man who had been chased by plain clothes officers into the station itself. According to first-hand accounts, as the man reached the doors of the Underground train, he was shot down, presumably for fear that he would detonate a bomb that he may have been carrying. Within minutes, an air ambulance was dispatched to the scene and various sections of the Underground, but it appears that this suspect was dead at the scene.

11:11am: Through the press wires came the news that armed police surrounded a mosque in East London, with rumours rife that inside may be at least some of the bombers who so badly bungled their attempt to bring the transport scheme of London crashing down around them yesterday lunchtime.

11:14am: Mark Whitby, a key witness to the shooting at Stockwell station, described the shot man as "asian", saying he stumbled upon reaching the doors before being set upon by police and shot five times, leaving him dead. Kennington Underground station, north of Stockwell, was closed as a result of an alert which at first also encompassed Vauxhall station, but was shortened to be only Kennington and Stockwell itself. An embargo on CCTV footage by the police was enforced, leaving the description of the situation to only eyewitnesses. A second-hand account from a man on the tube station described an "asian man" being pursued by "three plain-clothes officers," who tripped and was shot "in [the] head" three times.

11:20am: Two ambulances, three police vans announced as being positioned outside Stockwell station. A media photographer was ushered away from the scene upon taking photographs of the Underground station. The East London mosque, near Whitechapel Road was "totally cut-off" by a cordon, comprising over fifteen police officers surrounding the scene. The Stockwell station situation was described as "very surreal" by an eyewitness, with passengers on the tube acting "very calm."

11:29am: Regarding the Stockwell station incident, Chris Martin, a journalist, gave a report to the wires saying that "it sounded like a silencer gun going off," contradicting Mark Whitby's earlier report. Given the reports of witnesses yesterday, it could be speculated that this sound was yet another detonator going off. Scotland Yard confirmed the shooting of "a male at Stockwell station." Unconfirmed reports say that the man shot (and killed) may have indeed been one of the failed suicide bombers who escaped yesterday.

11:33am: The media cordon surrounding Stockwell station was moved 50 metres further towards the station, signifying a possible police relaxation, with the man who was shot confirmed as wearing a large jacket. By 11:35am, the East London mosque situation had cooled, with the police announcing to the press that they had given the all-clear for that situation on Whitechapel Road, which was a bomb scare. The Stockwell incident was reported as beginning at Kennington station, which is intersected from Stockwell station by Oval station, one of the four areas affected by yesterday's attempted bombings. It is believed that no innocent bystanders were injured or killed by either the would-be bomber or the undercover police.

11:44am: A group claiming links to Al'Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attempted bombings that occurred yesterday, July 21. At Stockwell station, Mark Whitby gave further details of the situation - three plain-clothes police officers followed the man, one carrying "a black handgun in his left hand," and, while two officers held down the man who seems to have tripped on his way onto the train, the third fired five shots into the suspect, who was just "three or four yards" away from Mr. Whitby.

12:05pm: Beliefs that the Stockwell shooting was an intellegence-led operation were strengthened thanks to the thought that the three armed, plain-clothed officers who followed him were part of the Metropolitan Police and had been following the suspect all morning. The man was confronted and told to stop before officers opened fire on him.

12:11pm: Yet more reports came in to the various newsrooms around the country claiming that passengers on the tube where the asian man was shot dead smelt burning rubber and saw smoke, much like those involved in the bomb attacks yesterday. According to eyewitness Ben Anderson, the doors of the train were open for "three or four minutes" at Stockwell station, before there was a commotion on the carriage next to his, followed by screams of 'get out!' from police officers. Footage was shown of police officers, Underground officials and, rather curiously, people in casual uniform, such as ties and suits. These people were believed to be plain-clothed police officers, who evidently had a rather large prescence both outside and inside Stockwell tube station.

12:17pm: Shops and businesses immediately surrounding Stockwell station were closed as a result of the cordoning off of the area where the earlier incident took place. Forensics officers began to slowly make their way into the station, with some carrying videocameras. In videotaped footage, an army van was seen driving through a police cordon.

1:36pm: According to various reports collated together, the man who was shot on the tube train at Stockwell station was of asian descent, quite large, with short cropped hair, wearing a black baseball cap, blue fleece and baggy trousers. By one account, the man, after a commotion on the Stockwell platform, ran onto the train, where he was pursued by officers, who then ordered other passengers off the train. During this, the man was shot somewhere between three and six times. Several experts and commentators noticed the clothes the man was wearing did not make sense for a person during the height of what is an unusually hot British summer. Some people were pointing towards the unconfirmed description that surrounded one of the bombers yesterday - who was rumoured to take shelter in University College Hospital - which included a blue jacket, with a hole in the back and wires hanging out of it. A police conference was expected at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre shortly. In the previous hour, TUC representatives reported to the media that "hundreds" of tube workers refused to work last night following the second wave of attacks, which luckily failed.

1:48pm: Due to "ongoing operations," the press conference held by the police was delayed for a further hour. Another alert on the Underground, at Watford station, filtered through, and the line through that station was closed to passengers. In other occurrences throughout the country, a cordon was raised around Canary Wharf; and a Southampton-London mainline train has been stopped mid-journey due to a suspicious package. Further confusing the situation, another report of smoke moving through a train in transit between Stockwell and Vauxhall stations from a burning black rucksack, with a "strange, putrid smell" was filed, with those involved claiming this had occurred at around 9:20am.

The suicide bombers trying to cause chaos and confusion could only wish that their actions would have such an effect as the rumours surrounding the shooting of this supposed bomber: only one thing could be confirmed by the Metropolitan police; they had, indeed, shot a man at Stockwell station dead.

2:22pm: Roughly forty minutes ago a small section of Harrow Road was cordoned off and police snipers stationed around the area, in preparation for dealing with some sort of incident. There were several plain-clothed police officers at the event, including some rumoured to be forensics officers and bomb disposal teams. Police did not ask residents on the Harrow Road to evacuate their premises, and it was thought that a house on the road may be a 'bomb factory' the likes of which were seen in Leeds and used to build the bombs involved in the 7 July attacks. The police conference was moved back a further hour.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

21/7: Two weeks on, more of a whimper than a bang

Supposed terrorist bombers today attacked London for the second time in two weeks as a ceremony was held to commemorate those 56 people who died (inclusive of the 7/7 bombers themselves), the final names of whom were released to the press just hours before the four bombs shocked the City of London, but left it unharmed, with the exception of one minor casualty and broken windows on a double-decker bus.

Retrospective: 7/7 journal

12:58pm: The city of London was brought to a standstill with a staggering seven blasts on a combination of the London Underground and Bus services, which caused serious death and destruction as Tony Blair opened the second day of the G8 Conference with a working breakfast with George W. Bush. The seven explosions, the vast majority of which were on the London Underground, occurred in a 45-minute period from 8:50am onwards, the height of the morning rush hour. At first there were reports from the Underground that a power surge had caused a failure throughout the tube system, but it quickly became clear that there was, in fact, a series of mass explosions. The trains were plunged into darkness as pieces of carriages were charred greatly by explosions, some being strewn across the tracks in the tunnels. According to eye-witnesses, a thick black smoke filled both the tunnel and the train, and passengers were forced to wait upwards of 30 minute before they were tended to by Underground workers. As the bigger picture began to unveil itself, passers-by above ground were forced into buildings by police and ordered to close all doors and windows in case of secondary explosions, all part of the mammoth response by emergency services and the army towards a most terrible of terrorist attacks.

At the Royal London Hospital, over 100 casualties have been admitted after being evaluated at various makeshift triages (including the Hilton Hotel and local schools) upon being evacuated from the Underground stations. Of those, only ten were serious injuries. In various other hospitals, the proportion of serious injuries was much the same; however, the sight of victims missing limbs, some having emergency CPR performed on them was a distressing one broadcast to the whole country through several national media outlets.

Sniffer dogs were immediately despatched to search for other, possibly undetonated bombs around the capital which could possibly explode, causing further horrors as Londoners began to fully understand the levity of the situation they faced just one day after being awarded the Olympic Games: the most joyous of occasions being contrasted with the most hellish.

Central London was brought to a standstill with security cordons only opening to allow a slew of both off-duty and on emergency response teams in to tube stations, and several double-decker buses out to hospitals, carrying the lesser seriously injured patients. All Underground services across the city were stopped, with buses halted in zone 1, encompassing all the blast sites. The emergency services capably carried out their work without panic while those around them struggled, and must be applauded for such an excellent response in the most difficult of conditions.

At midday, Tony Blair announced that the G8 summit would continue, but that he would return to the nation's capital to organise the freshly-implemented Operation Cobra. In the Commons, Charles Clarke expressed his deepest regret at the "criminal and appalling acts," and announced that only four incidents could be confirmed. As the ministers crammed themselves into the pews for this emergency meeting, some overflowing, taking their seats on the steps, Clarke announced that he had taken part in Operation Cobra. David Davies, the opposition minister, added his respects towards the emergency services and the victims of the attacks, calling "this mornings explosions...acts of deliberate intention to take lives." He then pledged that he was ready to aid the Government in whatever way possible, but expressed concern at possible follow-up attacks on other major cities throughout the country.

The most horrific of accidents was the only one which could be seen by the mass media at first; the bus explosion in Tavistock Place, a red double-decker bus ripped apart with the roof thrown in whole in front of the stationary bus, the sides bent at an awkward angle, the rear of the second deck of the bus fading away to nothing, showing the impact of such an explosion in such a confined space. It seems unlikely that anyone could survive such a massive explosion which could cause such damage to a huge structure as a bus.

By 1pm, the Secret Organisation Group of Al'Qaeda of Jihad, a European organisation, claimed responsibility for the attack - at the time it was not known of the validity of the claim, as many Islamic terrorist groups often flock to take credit for such a disgusting act - and, as the rain began to fall in London, the meeting of Operation Cobra was paused, deciding to regroup upon the arrival of the Prime Minister from Gleneagles. Nearly four hours after the explosions began, it was still unclear exactly what had happened, and what would be the consequences of this most awful incidents.

1:06pm: A controlled explosion was heard during the morning, signifying that this already monstrous attack was planned to be yet more dangerous and disgusting. Sadly, a number of people were announced as dying at Edgware Road, further increasing the now-ballooning death rate as more and more serious casualties were brought out of the wrecked carriages of the Underground trains. In London hospitals, the majority of casualties were treated for cuts caused by the shattering glass, and burns by the extreme heat resulting from a large explosion. The Royal London Hospital announced that 183 people had been admitted: of those, 60 still remain in hospital, several critical, including six undergoing emergency operations.

At Gleneagles, a second statement by the Prime Minister "condemned these barbaric attacks", with George Bush, and Jacque Chirac at his right and left-hand shoulders, the rest of the G8 leaders, the most powerful leaders of the world surrounding him, providing a united front against the extreme funamentalists who are believed to have been responsible for this attack. The rescue missions began to slowly wind down at some sites, but the number of casualties increased exponentially. Beginning to form a complete picture of the horrible events of July 7, 2005, it emerged that there were several Underground attacks and three bus bombs focused around the central London area which seriously injured over 150 and caused cuts and bruises to countless others.

1:20pm: The number of incidents throughout the day decreased as it became apparent that the victims of these attacks were emerging from separate Underground stations, lowering from seven to four. Local schools became a security target for possible immediate follow-up attacks, with headteachers being regularly updated with the orders that no child or staff should leave school premises for fear of a security breach.

A military helicopter looked starkly out-of-place on the green lawn of Gleneagles, but this was a day for extraordinary sights: as Tony Blair entered the helicopter, the blades started spinning and the G8 leaders took their seats to continue negotiations of combatting Third World debt, Jack Straw taking the place of the Prime Minister as he rushed to the capital to take his place as the leader of the country, now united under a strength to prevail against the terrorist forces which threaten to upset our democracy in Great Britain.