10 years on, London remembers horrors of 7/7

Devastation: 13 people lost their lives when a bomb destroyed a bus in Tavistock Square © PA

There will be a minute’s silence at 11:30 today to remember the 52 people who were killed in a terrorist attack in 2005. A decade has passed, but is the UK still feeling its effect?

On 6 July 2005, Londoners were jubilant as their city was awarded the Olympic games. Thelma Stober, a lawyer involved in organising the games, travelled to work the next day feeling elated. But as the circle line train approached Aldgate at 08:50, a bomb suddenly erupted in her carriage. Her train was one of three on London’s Underground network to be targeted that day by suicide bombers with links to Al-Qaeda.

Today marks 10 years since the traumatic events in the UK’s capital. Thelma survived, but lost her leg in the blast — she is one of around 770 who were injured. In total, after a fourth bomb exploded an hour later on a bus near King’s Cross, 52 people were killed.

Today, survivors and families of those who lost their lives will gather for a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral with Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson. At 11:30, the city will hold a minute’s silence. Platform announcements will be halted underground; bus drivers who can stop safely will bring their vehicles to a standstill.

The attack, now commonly referred to as 7/7, still represents the worst terrorist incident on British soil in living memory. A fortnight after a second bombing attempt failed on 21 July 2005, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that ‘the rules of the game have changed.’ Fear of another attack gripped the country. It felt as though Britain would never be the same.

The Terrorism Act 2006 was passed in response to 7/7, extending the time terror suspects could be held without charge from 14 days to 28, and granting powers to ban groups which ‘glorify terrorism’. In 2015, the government is still attempting to find the best way to approach the threat of terrorism. Following the rise of IS (so-called ‘Islamic State’), it has introduced new counter-extremism laws and pushed for greater powers to gather communications data from the public.

Aftershocks

The attack on tourists in Tunisia last month has left Britain shaken, but many would say that it has been a relatively safe place since 2005 — no other coordinated terrorist plot has been successful. The government insists that its ‘prevent’ strategy and counter-terrorism laws have kept the country safe. But times are changing, and the laws must keep up.

However, others fear that Britain has been damaged in the process. The anti-extremist rhetoric has left many British Muslims feeling blamed or under suspicion, without any direct proof that the new laws have had any effect at all. Of course all of society should try to prevent radicalisation, argues the secretary-general of the Muslim Council, but the measures should be fair — they should not involve ‘spying on a particular community’.

You Decide

  1. Do you remember hearing about the 7/7 attacks? Do they influence the way you think about security in the UK?
  2. Are the UK’s counter terrorism laws a justified response to the threat of extremism?

Activities

  1. Write a news story on the 7/7 bombings as if they had just happened. What do you decide to focus on?
  2. Class debate: ‘This house believes that terrorism is the biggest threat currently facing the people of the UK.’

Some People Say...

“It’s what happens beyond the major events and flashpoints that matters.”

7/7 survivor Sajda Mughal

What do you think?

Q & A

Is this just an isolated event?
In some ways it was — no other event took so many lives all at once. However, terrorism is not new, especially not in London — Guy Fawkes’ foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 is one of the most famous incidents. Several bombs were also detonated in incidents organised by the IRA from the 1970s-1990s.
Does that mean it will happen again?
It is possible — London is one of the world’s major cities, which naturally makes it a target for extremist groups of all natures. But you shouldn’t let the fear of terrorism change your behaviour or deter you from visiting — the chance of being caught up in a terrorist incident is extremely low, and spreading panic is exactly what they hope to achieve.

Word Watch

Al-Qaeda
The extremist Islamist organisation was founded by Osama Bin Laden, and was also responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. There are several different groups involved in Al-Qaeda. IS was one such group, but broke away in 2014.
Tony Blair
The Labour prime minister was in office from 1997-2007. One of his lasting legacies was his championing of the Iraq war in 2003, a decision for which many have since criticised him. The war achieved its aim of deposing the dictator Saddam Hussein, but Iraq remains a deeply divided and extremely dangerous country.
Communications data
The so-called ‘snoopers charter’ is officially known as the draft Communications Data Bill. It will dramatically increase the UK’s surveillance by forcing internet providers and mobile phone companies to keep records of all communications by their customers, and make them available to security services.
‘Prevent’ strategy
Prevent is just one branch of the government’s anti-terrorism strategy. It focuses on stopping radicalisation before people are drawn into terrorism.

Subjects

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