Saturday, July 07, 2012

7/7 attacks almost forgotten 7 years on

Saturday marked exactly 7 years since four Islamist suicide bombers targeted London killing 52 civilians and injuring at least 700 others. But the anniversary was not marked with the fanfare seen every year in the US following 9/11. There were no special reports on television, no high profile memorial for the victims, just a few scant references in a few papers and one documentary which was shown several days before on BBC 2 [Guardian].

Despite several terror suspects being arrested in recent days in London [BBC] and the West Midlands [BBC / D Mail / Telegraph] as well as a terror alert triggered by an electronic cigarette which closed off a section of the M6 for several hours, few if any media reports mentioned the anniversary of the 7/7 attacks.

ITV News had a report on its website. Sky News also had a small report focusing on former London mayor Ken Livingstone who told the news channel the attacks failed to divide the city. But such reports were lost in the almost saturation coverage of the floods that have been creating chaos and misery across Britain.

The London Evening Standard was one of the few papers which looked back at the attacks, talking to witnesses and passengers of the No. 30 bus which exploded in Tavistock Square.

The downplaying of reports could be much to do with not wishing to frighten off visitors to the London Olympics, now only days away. While police have stressed that recent terror arrests were not connected to any imminent threat to the Games, there is still some concern in the back of many people's minds that terrorists could target the event.

One Australian based website, describing itself as an independent source of analysis, commentary and news, speculated on the possibility of such an attack. Written by what it cites as "acknowledged experts", The Conversation suggested that any Olympic terror attack would look more like 7/7 than 9/11.

The article focuses on London's security preparations leading up to the Games. And it is no small deployment. There are Rapier surface-to-air missiles in Blackheath common, the Royal Navy's largest battleship moored in the Thames, complete with eight Lynx helicopters, at least 23,500 security personnel including 13,500 British troops [4,000 more than Britain sent to fight in Afghanistan], 500 FBI agents and a city-wide image recognition surveillance system.

But no amount of advanced anti-aircraft systems would have prevented the 7/7 bombers from attacking London's transport network, the article points out. Indeed even after the 7/7 attacks, an increased security presence and an ever more vigilant public failed to prevent four would be suicide bombers attempting another attack exactly two weeks later.

However, three weeks before the opening of the games, is not the time for counting the cost of either the London Olympics or its security. Nor should one brush the potential threat under the carpet. To forget the outrage of 7/7 and not mark the occasion is not only disrespectful but also risks one not learning the lessons of the past.

Some of Sunday's early morning editions highlighted the potential threat is all too real with several reports concerning at least one of the recently arrested terror suspects who is said to have paid a great deal of interest in the Olympic sites [Telegraph].

While the Olympic Games are a prime target, a terror attack could strike anywhere in London. And as an article in the Evening Standard on Friday says, vigilance remains the watchword.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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