By Ray Fleming
LONDON had waited for a long time for yesterday's bombings but when they came the shock, suffering and dismay were in no way diminished by the length of the anticipation. Britain's identification with America's cause in Afghanistan and Iraq and the high profile which it takes in international affairs generally have made it inevitable that its capital city would one day be targetted. The G8 meeting in Scotland almost certainly served as an additional incentive to the terrorists.
Last month, the chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' terrorism committee, Ken Jones who is chief constable of Sussex, said that Britain would remain a prime target for terrorists, adding “The threat will endure for the foreseeable future”. The internet claim of responsibility by a group calling itself The Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda in Europe merely confirmed what was already apparent, that the bombings were the work of a well-organised team and were similar in their tactics to those used in the Madrid bombings last year. WHETHER the team is under the control of Osama bin Laden or of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist leader responsible for the worst acts of insurgency in Iraq, may not matter greatly. The communique on the internet was couched in standard Islamic terrorist-speak: “Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. The time has come for vengeance against the Zionist crusader government of Britain in response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have repeatedly warned the British government and people. We have fulfilled our promise and carried out our blessed military raid in Britain after our Mujahideen exerted strenuous efforts over a long period of time to ensure the success of the raid.” THE Director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College, London, Michael Clarke, said yesterday that each bomb would require at least four people to be involved in placing it in a targeted and co-ordinated operation. “It will have been quite a big plot and months in the planning,” he said.
The big question, of course, is whether yesterday's attacks in Britain are likely to be repeated, and where.
Although the internet communique warned Denmark and Italy to withdraw their troops from Iraq or face the same terror threat as Britain, it seems inevitable that the UK will remain a priority target because of its substantial and continuing military involvement in Iraq. No doubt the security services will try to move swiftly to arrest suspects but even if they are successful in this the fact remains that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers from the Arabic and Islamic world at his disposal, some of whom are British citizens. IT cannot be said that the immediate response of the world leaders assembled at the Gleneagles Hotel for the G8 meeting provided any reassurance that the threat from Islamic extremism will be contained in the near future. President Bush's promise that “we will find the terrorists, we will bring them to justice” had an empty echo of countless similar statements made after 9/11. Mr Blair's assertion that the attacks are not just on one nation but “on all nations and civilised people” was not strictly true; the targets are the United States for its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and those countries which support it. Nor should the communique reference to “the Zionist crusader government of Britain” be overlooked, despite its inaccuracy.
Clearly every measure consistent with maintaining “our values and our way of life” (Tony Blair's phrase yesterday) must be taken to contain and if possible eliminate the kind of terror unleashed on London yesterday. At the same time, however, it is worrying that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair seem not to have changed their basic reaction to such attacks since 9/11 despite all the evidence that their response to that event is in some measure a part of the current problem rather than of its solution.


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