7 July 2005 London bombings

The 7 July 2005 London bombings (often referred to as 7/7) were a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks in central London, which targeted civilians using the public transport system during the morning rush hour.

On the morning of Thursday, 7 July 2005, four British Islamist men detonated four bombs three in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a double decker bus in Tavistock Square. As well as the four bombers, 52 civilians were killed and over 700 more were injured in the attacks, the ‘s worst terrorist incident since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing as well as the country’s first ever suicide attack.

The explosions were caused by homemade organic peroxide based devices packed into backpacks. The bombings were followed two weeks later by a series of attempted attacks that failed to cause injury or damage.

The 7 July attacks occurred the day after London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, which had highlighted the city’s multicultural reputation.[1]

See also: Attacks on the London Underground

At 8:49 am, three bombs were detonated on board London Underground trains within fifty seconds of each other:

The first exploded on a 6 car London Underground C69 and C77 Stock Circle line sub surface train, number 204, travelling eastbound between Liverpool Street and Aldgate. The train had left King’s Cross St. Pancras about eight minutes earlier. At the time of the explosion, the train’s third car was approximately 100 yards (90m) along the tunnel from Liverpool Street. The parallel track of the Hammersmith City line between Liverpool Street and Aldgate East was also damaged in the blast.

The second device exploded in the second car of another 6 car London Underground C69 and C77 Stock Circle line sub surface train, number 216, which had just left platform 4 at Edgware Road and was travelling westbound toward Paddington. The train had also left King’s Cross St. Pancras about eight minutes previously. There were several other trains nearby at the time of the explosion; an eastbound Circle line train (arriving at platform 3 at Edgware Road from Paddington) was passing next to the bombed train and was damaged,[2] as well as a wall that later collapsed. Two other trains were at Edgware Road: an unidentified train on platform 2 and a southbound Hammersmith City line service that had just arrived at platform 1.

A third bomb was detonated on a 6 car London Underground 1973 Stock Piccadilly line deep level Underground train, number 311, travelling southbound from King’s Cross St. Pancras and Russell Square. The device exploded approximately one minute after the service departed King’s Cross, by which time it had travelled about 500 yards (450m). The explosion occurred at the rear of the first car of the train number 166 causing severe damage to the rear of that car as well as the front of the second one.[3] The surrounding tunnel also sustained damage.

It was originally thought that there had been six, rather than three, explosions on the Underground network. The bus bombing brought the reported total to seven; this was clarified later in the day. The erroneous reporting can be attributed to the fact that the blasts occurred on trains that were between stations, causing wounded passengers to emerge from both stations, giving the impression that there was an incident at each. Police also revised the timings of the tube blasts: initial reports had indicated that they occurred during a period of almost half an hour. This was due to initial confusion at London Underground (LU), where the explosions were originally believed to have been caused by power surges. An early report, made in the minutes after the explosions, involved a person under a train, while another described a derailment (both of which did occur, but only as a result of the explosions). A code amber alert was declared by LU at 09:19, and LU began to cease the network’s operations, ordering trains to continue only to the next station and suspending all services.[4]

The effects of the bombs are understood to have varied due to the differing characteristics of the tunnels in which they occurred:[5]

The Circle line is a "cut and cover" sub surface tunnel, about 7m (21ft) deep. As the tunnel contains two parallel tracks, it is relatively wide. The two explosions on the Circle line were probably able to vent their force into the tunnel, reducing their destructive force.

The Piccadilly line is a deep level tunnel, up to 30m (100ft) below the surface and with narrow (3.56m, or 11ft8in) single track tubes and just 15cm (6in) clearances. This confined space reflected the blast force, concentrating its effect.

Almost one hour after the attacks on the London Underground, a fourth bomb was detonated on the top deck of a number 30 double decker bus, a Dennis Trident 2 (fleet number 17758, registration LX03BUF, two years in service at the time) operated by Stagecoach London and travelling its route from Marble Arch to Hackney Wick.

Earlier, the bus had passed through the King’s Cross area as it travelled from Hackney Wick to Marble Arch. At its final destination, the bus turned around and started the return route to Hackney Wick. It left Marble Arch at 9 am and arrived at Euston bus station at 9:35 am, where crowds of people had been evacuated from the tube and were boarding buses.

The explosion at 9:47 am in Tavistock Square ripped off the roof and destroyed the rear portion of the bus. The blast took place near BMA House, the headquarters of the British Medical Association, on Upper Woburn Place. A number of doctors and medical staff in or near that building were able to provide immediate emergency assistance.

Witnesses reported seeing "half a bus flying through the air". BBC Radio 5 Live and The Sun later reported that two injured bus passengers said that they saw a man exploding in the bus.[6]

The location of the bomb inside the bus meant the front of the vehicle remained mostly intact. Most of the passengers at the front of the top deck survived, as did those near the front of the lower deck, including the driver, but those at the rear of the bus suffered more serious injuries. The extent of the damage caused to the victims’ bodies resulted in a lengthy delay in announcing the death toll from the bombing while police determined how many bodies were present and whether the bomber was one of them. Several passers by were also injured by the explosion and surrounding buildings were damaged by debris.

The bombed bus was subsequently covered with tarpaulin and removed by low loader for forensic examination at a secure Ministry of Defence site. The vehicle was ultimately returned to Stagecoach and scrapped thereafter on 15 October 2009. A replacement bus, a new Alexander Dennis Enviro400 (fleet number 18500, which has been changed since to 19000, registration LX55HGC), was named "Spirit of London". In October 2012 the "Spirit of London" bus was set alight in an arson attack.[7] It was repaired and refurbished at a cost of 60,000 and re entered service in April 2013.[8] Two fourteen year old girls were charged for the attack.[7]All but one of the 52 victims had been residents in London during the attacks and were from a diverse range of backgrounds. Among those killed were several foreign born British nationals, foreign exchange students, parents, and one British couple of 14 years. Due to train delays before the attacks, as well as subsequent transport issues caused by them, several victims died aboard trains and buses they would not normally have taken. Their ages ranged from 20 to 60 years old.

Mohammad Sidique Khan: aged 30. He lived in Beeston, Leeds, with his wife and young child, where he worked as a learning mentor at a primary school. The blast killed seven people, including Khan himself.

Shehzad Tanweer: aged 22. He lived in Leeds with his mother and father, working in a fish and chip shop. He was killed by the explosion along with seven members of the public.

Three of the bombers were British born sons of Pakistani immigrants; Lindsay was a convert born in Jamaica. They were recorded on CCTV arriving at King’s Cross station at about 08:30am.

On 12 July 2005, the BBC reported that the Metropolitan Police Service’s anti terrorism chief Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke had said that property belonging to one of the bombers had been found at both the Aldgate and Edgware Road blasts.

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