News / Europe

London Marks 5th Anniversary of Terror Attacks

On July 7 five years ago, suicide bombers attacked London's transport network, killing 52 people.  The Muslim bombers did not come from overseas, but were born and raised in Britain.  The attacks marked a turning point in how British society perceived the threat of terrorism.  The impact of the bombings would also prove to be a huge challenge for the country's large Muslim population.  

At exactly 9:47 Wednesday morning, in London's leafy Tavistock Square, relatives and friends of the victims of the 7/7 bombings gathered to remember and reflect.  At a distance, passers-by stopped to watch and pay their respects.

It was here that five years ago, Hasib Hussain detonated a bomb on the number 30 bus, killing 13 people and wounding dozens more.

It was the final of a series of four explosions that day that ripped through London's transport system.  In total, 52 people were killed.

Britain had long-feared a suicide attack by Islamic extremists, but unlike the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001,  the London bombers were not foreigners, but were born and raised in Britain.

M.J. Gohel of the security research group the Asia-Pacific Foundation describes the impact 7/7 had on the British authorities.

"It was never really expected that anyone born in the U.K. would turn against their own country, their own community; and it came as quite a major shock," Gohel said. "Here was a completely new kind of enemy and all those hurdles were there - race, religion, language, culture. They had to learn very quickly, and it meant that just sealing borders was no longer enough.  An entirely new strategy would be required."

It was not only the security services that would have to turn their attention away from foreign dangers to delve deep into British society.  The Muslim community here has been thrust into the limelight like never before.

Hadiya Masieh clearly remembers the hostile atmosphere after 7/7.  She was a student at the time; she now works for the Three Faiths Forum, campaigning against extremism at universities across the U.K.

"I believe that there was a wake-up call within the Muslim community, the majority of them not realizing that there was a very small minority of people who felt aggrieved by foreign policy issues," she said.

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has paid tribute to the local authorities who he said 'worked hard to keep the capital moving and its communities united in grief, not in mutual hatred or suspicion.'  But five years on, race relations are still tense in parts of the U.K.  In recent years, far right political groups have made progress in local elections.

And the government says the danger of another terrorist attack is high; earlier this year it raised the threat level to 'severe'.

M.J. Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation says the security services have to keep adapting.

"There have been a number of other plots, the London and Glasgow bombing, the ammonium nitrate plot, the transatlantic bomb plot," Gohel said. "The terrorists are always finding new ways of launching an attack, and therefore the security services have to try to stay one step ahead."

London has moved on from 7/7.  The tangible fear that pervaded London's transport system after the attacks has passed.

But the security services stress that the danger of another attack remains high, and that so-called homegrown terrorists, born and raised in Britain, are still plotting attacks on their own people.

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