Britain remembers 52 victims of 2005 terror bombings

LONDON: Britain will pay silent homage on Tuesday to the 52 victims of the 2005 London bombings, with thoughts inevitably also turning to the 30 Britons killed in Tunisia last month in a horrific reminder of the Islamist threat.

In the 10 years between the two attacks, Britain has beefed up anti-terror legislation and stepped up its emergency preparedness, but the number of fighters travelling to join jihadists has multiplied.

The four suicide bombers of July 7, 2005, who killed 52 people, said they were inspired by al Qaeda, while the Tunisian gun massacre of June 26 in which 38 tourists died was claimed by the Islamic State group.

A wreath will be laid in front of a memorial in London’s Hyde Park to the victims of the attacks on the city’s transport system ahead of a religious service in St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the tenth anniversary, with families of the victims and survivors expected to take part.

The country will observe a minute’s silence at 1030 GMT after having made the same gesture on Friday in honour of its latest victims of terror.

The July 7 ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan, a father-of-one whose parents were immigrants from Pakistan, was angry at British foreign policy in Iraq and said he wanted to avenge the deaths of fellow Muslims.

Khan’s suicide video was widely broadcast and left a scar in the national consciousness, with many Britons shocked at hearing the jihadist slogans from the mouth of a young man with a recognisable hometown accent from his native Yorkshire.

Once the initial shock of the attacks passed, London prepared to minimise the risks of a repeat attack.

The emphasis has been on countering radicalisation but also improving the effectiveness of the emergency services, which were criticised for delays in 2005.

“We’ve learned a lot as London’s emergency services,” said Jason Killens, director of operations at the London Ambulance Service.

But the threat has evolved and jihadist attacks like the one in Tunisia risk inspiring copycat action in Western countries.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s government passed a Counter Terrorism and Security Bill earlier this year that includes measures to disrupt travel plans of British jihadists.

It is also planning to strengthen its legislative arsenal with a new law that would force mobile phone operators and Internet providers to hand over data about their customers to the police.

But the law, dubbed a “Snoopers’ Charter” by the press, risks sparking outrage from those concerned about the power of the secret services following revelations about the US National Security Agency.

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, said,”This is a government that needs to be restrained, not rewarded with unrestrained and greater reach into our lives.”