On July 7 2005 during the morning rush hour, three bombs exploded simultaneously on London Underground trains. A fourth exploded an hour later, wrecking a red double-decker bus. Only the previous day London had celebrated being awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. Now the city was in shock.
Mobile and landline phone systems crashed as millions of Londoners sought information or reassurance – sparking ever wilder rumors of civic or government meltdown, crazy conspiracies and official cover-ups. When, finally, the traffic began to move again, the truth was found to be altogether starker than anyone had imagined: four suicide bombers had succeeded in bringing bloody mayhem to the capital. A random 52 Londoners were dead and more than 700 were injured as a result of Islamist extremism.
With some justification, the bombings induced a kind of panic in UK security agencies. Not knowing whether the bombings were the start of a more widespread attack, specialist police units were instructed to ‘shoot to kill’ anyone who was ‘suspicious’. Just two weeks later a copycat series of bombings only failed because the detonators didn’t work properly. This time the failed suicide bombers were caught; but, in the heightened atmosphere of paranoia that followed, the very next day an innocent Brazilian student, Jean Charles de Menezes, was gunned down by armed police without any warning as he sat on a train at Stockwell Station.
The death of de Menezes sobered the entire country. Since 7/7 Britain has learned that the price its citizens must pay for protection is permanently armed police and a ‘surveillance society’ that effectively removes the civil rights British citizens consider their birthright.
When: July 7 2005
Where: On Tube trains at Liverpool Street Station and Edgware Road Station, and in the tunnel between King’s Cross and Russell Square stations, and on a bus at Tavistock Square, London, UK
Death toll: 56 died, including four suicide bombers, and more than 700 were injured, many of them very severely. Basic freedoms have been eroded, and Britain has been forced to live within new legal parameters that for many feel like a straitjacket. The effect of the 7/7 bombings has proved disastrous to the ties that bind society together – suspicion reigns.
You should know: The 7/7 atrocities have become London’s ‘badge of terrorism’. Unfortunately, apart from the individual displays of extraordinary courage and human kindnesses on the part of ordinary members of the London public at the time, there have been no positive outcomes.