London, Round 2

Exactly two weeks after the terrorist attacks on the London tubes which killed 54 and wounded over 700, London has been subjected to another round of bombings on its transit system. Reports are sketchy and still being sorted out. The Counterterrorism Blog is the best place to receive up-to-date links to news reports and expert commentary.

At this point, four explosions have been recorded – three at subway stations and one on a bus – and two unexploded devices may have been recovered. The explosions do not appear to have caused serious damage, and only one injury has been reported. It appears the bombs either malfunctioned or were poorly designed. Via The Counterterrorism Blog

Sky News site: “Victoria Line train passenger Ivan McCracken told Sky News he spoke to an Italian man who witnessed an explosion just after the train arrived at the platform.” He told me he had seen a man carrying a rucksack which suddenly exploded. It was a minor explosion but enough to blow open his rucksack. Everyone rushed from the carriage. People evacuated very quickly. There was no panic. “I didn’t see anyone injured but there was shock and fright.” There was a smell of smoke.” NBC and others report that police entered hospital after person carrying exploded backpack admitted with injuries. Fox News: “(C)ops looking for man with wires poking out of shirt; another man with beard seen fleeing one station”

Additional information from the BBC on the attack on the bus and a police report of a suspected suicide bomb threat:

A spokesman for Stagecoach said the driver of the number 26 bus traveling through Shoreditch had heard a bang on upper deck, gone upstairs and seen the windows were blown out. The bus driver was very shaken but said to be fine.

At Shepherd’s Bush station, police told reporters that a man had threatened to blow himself up and then ran off.

There is always the possibility this was a copycat incident, particularly due to the relative ineffectiveness of the explosive devises. However, if the report from the bus driver, Ivan McCracken and others are credible, this attack bears the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

• Targeting critical infrastructure.

• Multiple attacks synchronized for maximum psychological and media impact.

• Use of suicide bombers.

• Follow up attacks on identical targets.

Assuming the attack was al Qaeda sponsored, the failure of of all of the explosive devices [in the sense that they did not produce mass casualties] particularly , is telling. We can draw some conclusions from today’s attacks:

• Explosive experts were not available to properly rig the devices, either due to capture, fleeing the country or going underground to evade capture. The cell members likely tried to conduct their mission without expert technical support.

• The technical knowledge on assembling the bombs is not organic to the cells themselves. The knowledge comes from outside the cell.

• The job was rushed. The crackdown and investigations in the wake of the 7/7 attacks may have pressured dormant cells to “use it or lose it” – to carry out an attack before being exposed.

• The unexploded devices recovered will provide a wealth of information on the cells and the designer of the bombs, leading to further intelligence on the enemy’s support networks and the cell itself.

From a political and psychological standpoint, this attack was a miserable failure. While the 7/7 attacks are fresh in the mind of the nation, and while many liberals are reassessing their stand on the threat of Islamist terrorism (Belmont Club has a roundup of liberal reactions to 7/7), this attack on serves as a reminder of the very real threat within England and the danger of ignoring it. Al Qaeda is better served by allowing the western world to be lulled back into a sense of security, and today’s attacks do nothing of the sort.

The ineffectiveness of today’s attack is a black eye to al Qaeda’s image of professionals who carefully plan and execute highly effective attacks. Since 9-11, al Qaeda has yet to reproduce a mass casualty assault on the scale of the attacks on New York City and Washington. The Bali, Madrid, London (7/7) and a host of other attacks carried out since then were magnitudes lower than 9/11, but still produced horrific results. These attacks were demonstrations of al Qaeda’s ability to effectively strike in the heart of the world’s cities and capitals, and in the case of Spain, the ability to directly influence an election.

Assuming this attack was al Qaeda affiliated, this was a poorly planned and poorly executed attack from an organization that prides itself in skill and effectiveness when striking. You won’t view today’s results on any jihadi recruitment videos.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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23 Comments

  • leaddog2 says:

    Yes, but how long will it take for police or counter-terorist efforts to catch some people and stop them in any way necessary?

  • Serious incidents in London subways – casualties

    The BBC is reporting that the series of small explosions in the London subway, or “tubes” as they call them, are being described by London Police Commissioner Ian Blair as “serious incidents” but that casualties are low.

  • Justin B says:

    That is the real danger of the terrorist threat. Anyone that has a beef with the policies or actions of society can inflict massive casualties with minimal planning and effort. Clearly these folks today were amateurs.

    There is a finite supply of leadership in Al Qaeda and a finite supply of skilled bomb makers and logistics folks. There may be an almost endless supply of footsoldiers willing to be suicide bombers, but as we see today, these are not the folks that we need to worry about. It is the leadership that makes the mission so deadly. We have been steadily dismantling the Al Qaeda leadership.

    And when folks keep talking about Iraq acting as flypaper and encouraging more terrorists, the fact is that there may be an endless supply of footsoldiers, but we are seeing the effectiveness of attacks decrease. the frequency may be increasing or staying the same, but as we dismantle leadership, the effectiveness and planning is going to decrease.

  • vucommodore says:

    Justin B:
    Your logic is convoluted again. Just like the “let’s fight them in Baghdad so we don’t have to fight them in Boston thing” (proven wrong in London and Madrid and by the increase of terrorism worldwide), the logic of more footsoldiers and less leadership being a good thing is also flawed.
    Footsoldiers can be very effective without leadership. Leadership are not willing to die. Footsoldiers are. Today was not a very good indication. Anybody can get a book or read the internet and build a bomb. If more people are motivated to do it, more people are going to do it. If there are more terrorists, there is going to be more terrorism. If they don’t know how to build bombs, they’ll use guns or knives or anything they can use.

  • GK says:

    Bill,
    Are liberals really re-assessing their opinion on Islamic terror? If they haven’t done it by now, I don’t think they can change their fanatical opinions at all.
    A cross-over into common-sense land, such as Christopher Hitchens or Ron Silver, happens rarely.
    The ‘Liberals’ are jsut not smart enough to get it, no matter how much evidence is presented.

  • GK says:

    It is laughable to see Vucommodore actually lecture Justin on logic. V’dore’s logic entails believing the following two things.
    1) Saddam would NEVER lie about possessing WMDs. So what if he had them before and used them on Kurds and Iran? So what if he invaded Kuwait, paid Palestinian Suicide bombers $20,000 each, and killed 3 million people? He would NEVER lie! If he says he doesn’t have them, he does NOT!! He would NEVER lie, like Bush did!
    2) We were wrong to attack Iraq because no WMDs were found. That is why it is wrong. But, even though Iran and North Korea openly state that they HAVE WMDs and are threatening to use them, we must not harass them either.
    It is wrong to attack Iraq since it was predictable that there would be no WMDs (see point 1)), but it is wrong to harass Iran and North Korea even though they say they have WMDs.
    This is how Vucommodore’s ‘brain’ ‘functions’.

  • vucommodore says:

    GK: You’ve posted that same thing about 4 times. If that’s the only argument you can make, you’re not a very good debater.
    What is there to reconsider about islamic terror? Islamic terror is terrible and we have to do everything we can to stop it. That’s what “liberals” have been saying all along. It’s the approach that “liberals” have disagreed about and it’s starting to seem that the “liberals” were right.
    Have conservatives started reconsidering Iraq yet? 1770 US dead, 13,000 US injured in Iraq and instead of cutting terrorism worldwide, it has increased it and served as a recruiting tool. If there was no Iraq, there would be 15,000 less US casualties, hundreds of billions more to spend at home and a safer world (2.8 Al Qaeda attacks per year before Iraq average and 8 per year average afterwards). The elected government in Iraq has more ties to Islamic terrorists (Iran, Hezbollah, etc.) than Saddam Hussein ever had.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    vucommadore,
    Some folks look at things in a vacuum. The Russian’s lost 38,000 soldiers(KIA) in Afghanistan fighting Jihadists, the “Coalition” has lost less than 300.
    Yes, the US has better technology, and maybe even better Generals.
    We are selling Freedom and Democracy, but the Jihadists don’t want that anymore than communism.
    I spent a year in the early 80’s(somewhere in the ME) listening to Jihadist shortwave radio propaganda. 500 different stations, same message, kill the American and Soviet imperialist dogs. This war has been going on for 1,500 hundred years. CNN just didn’t bother covering it.
    If we weren’t killing the Jihadi’s in Iraq, they would just keep traveling until they got to Afghanistan, until they drove us out of their. A rational person would combine the fatalities of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Same war, same enemy. I never saw anybody seperate out the number of casualties fighting the Germans in Belgium,Holland,Italy and France…and then try to justify that one battle was rightous and one was wrong.
    As for your “wounded” number. The number of wounded that required treatment outside of Iraq is in the 2,600 neighborhood. The rest were treated in Iraq and returned to duty(sometimes in more than 72 hours).

  • GK says:

    V’dore,
    One does not have to be a good debater to win a debate with a ‘liberal’. One just has to ask simple, common-sense questions.
    I asked 4 times, because you dodged 4 times. I’ll ask even simpler questions.
    1) How has terrorism increased, when the mainland US has had no further attacks in 4 years?
    2) How has terrorism increased worldwide when so many attacks happened before the Iraq war to begin with, like :
    1993 WTC bombing, Kenya/Tanzania Bombing, Khobar Towers, USS Cole, Bali Nightclub, Indian Parliament, 9/11.
    On the other hand, both Palestinian terrorism, Kashmir terrorism, and Syria’s occupation of Lebanon have all dwindled.
    3) Now, the tough part for a ‘liberal’ – numbers.
    WW2 US Casualties : 300,000
    Korea US Casualties : 50,000
    Vietnam US Casualties : 50,000
    Iraq US Hostile Casualties : 1500.
    What a small number for Iraq! This too with a new democracy and elections! It seems like a stunning success to me.
    _______________________
    So answer these questions v’dore. I doubt you can, as most low-IQ ‘liberals’ simply run away when their fanatical views are questioned.

  • USMC_Vet says:

    Not AQ, in my view. Not enough bang.
    IMHO, I think this was a crew of wannabe’s who indeed draw encouragement from the same AQ, but not affiliated.
    Personally, if correct, this only makes matters worse for Brits. The 7/7 attacks have encouraged those who may agree with al Qaeda & their ilk (including Omar Bakri Mohammed) but have no other contact or affiliation. ‘Heretofore-bystanders’ may have been emboldened to take matters into their own hands without any direct contact or support.
    Such is the progression of events when radical islamist non-assimilating immigrants are welcomed into your society unchecked.
    Something must change without delay in Britain.

  • Steve N says:

    Seems to me that what we have in Britain is a backup bombing. That is, the group was smart enough to schedule 2 groups to bomb the same or similar targets 2 weeks apart, on the chance that the first bombing had to be called off at the last minute.
    So why the second bombing? Because someone who has the authority to call it off has been taken out of commission, as well as the person who was to provide the actual explosives payload.
    Just a thought. Does it make sense?

  • Justin B says:

    VU,

    Let’s fight them in Baghdad so we don’t fight them in Boston was proven wrong by Madrid and London? Please explain how that was an attack on an “American” city. Not sure I understand, but now London and Madrid are part of the US? Maybe it is just me.

    Point is, has Al Qaeda been able to successfully attack us? Meaning the US. Answer is No. Have they been able to attack countries that agree with the US and assisted us with removing Saddam? Yep. But the reasons for their success in Madrid and London are primarily driven by law enforcement and legal issues that have prevented these two countries from disrupting these activities as well as with lax immigration laws and Amnesty Laws in the UK that has allowed foreign nationals to relocate to the UK.

    Was London’s bombing any worse than Bali or the USS Cole? Or was Madrid’s bombing any worse than what the Chechnyan rebels did in Russia? And none of the above compare to the magnitude of 9-11. And let me remind you that none have occured in the US.

    It is not our job to secure Madrid or London. And to that extent, what you are trying to do is blame the Iraq situation with the lack of security and prevention of these two attacks. Clearly our security is our problem and theirs is theirs, although we cooperate extensively.

    Our Patriot Act and our Law Enforcement is keeping us safe as well as our military actions are disrupting the operation of the terrorist networks. Can you at least conceed that our Patriot Act, Law Enforcement, and military operations have prevented any attacks in “Boston” as opposed to Iraq or other locations around the world? I will start giving weight to your argument when London or Madrid are part of the United States but until then, your logic is fatally flawed.

  • GK says:

    Justin,
    According to V’Dore, the US is part of a world community. It is our job to not just give them aid, pay for their defense, and host the UN on our soil, but it is also our job absorb all terrorism. We are being unilateral to suggest otherwise.
    The Patriot Act and WoT have made the too US safe. This is a dereliction of our duty to absorb terror for the world community. That is why ‘liberals’ hate the Patriot Act and WoT – they make us less vulnerable than the rest of the international community.
    This is how V’Dore’s ‘brain’ ‘functions’.

  • GK says:

    Justin,
    According to V’Dore, the US is part of a world community. It is our job to not just give them aid, pay for their defense, and host the UN on our soil, but it is also our job absorb our fair share terrorism (in proportion to our wealth, not our population). We are being unilateral and selfish to not shoulder ouir fair share.
    The Patriot Act and WoT have made the US too safe. This is a dereliction of our duty to absorb terror for the world community. That is why ‘liberals’ hate the Patriot Act and WoT – they make us less vulnerable than the rest of the international community.
    V’dore agrees that the Patriot Act and WoT have blocked terrorism on US soil. Instead, the objective itself of keeping the US safe without keeping the whole world safe is what V’dore disagrees with. See everything he writes and it will conform with this opinion of his.
    This is how Vucommodore’s ‘brain’ ‘functions’.

  • Grim says:

    Cautiously.
    Would the ‘flypaper’ theory be proved wrong, then, if tomorrow there was a big bomb in Boston? Such a thing is not impossible.
    One should not focus on the single event, whether it is in Madrid or London or here, in the United States. What matters is the focus — the place where the enemy is expending the majority of his resources. Without question, the two foci of this war are Iraq and Pakistan.
    We aren’t even directly engaged in one of those, but are fighting it mostly by proxy. We are able to use SOF in the border regions to destabilize supply routes and other logistical targets, while the Pakistani frontier regiments do the work. It is completely off the radar for the public.
    In Iraq, meanwhile, the enemy has greatly reduced its attacks on us — down 45% since Fallujah — in order to focus on killing Iraqis. That isn’t going to work, for reasons we’ve discussed.
    This is the nature of the war. Flypaper works even if only 51% of the energry of our enemy is transferred to these outlying regions, places where our infrastructure is not directly under attack. Our resources are greater than theirs; they shall break long before we do. Or so it will prove, if our will is equal to theirs. That, at least, remains an open question.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Grim’s dead on here. I would add Saudi Arabia as another focal point, but that’s minor quibbling. The battle has been brought to the enemy, they must commit resources to fight us there or cede to teh Great Satan.
    USMC_Vet,
    We’ll see, but as I stated, this really has all the hallmarks of al Qaeda. I think their bombmaker fled or has been captured, and the cell went into panic mode. We’ll get more information when they take apart those bombs and perform some interrogations.

  • vucommodore says:

    Justin B:
    London is not in the United States but the logic was that the war in Iraq was supposed to draw terrorists into Iraq and then they would not strike in Western cities. Whether it is Boston or London is not the basis of the logic. I think we should be somewhat concerned about Britain’s security because they are our #1 allies and Tony Blair concerned himself with American security when he decided to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with President Bush after 9/11. In addition to that, insecurity in Britain that undermines their economy also effects ours in a global marketplace.
    I can’t tell you how much the Patriot Act has helped because I’m not privy to that information but American law enforcement certainly has done a very good job at prevening another attack. However, Iraq has served as a rallying cry for terrorists and it seems to have motivated at least some bombers when it was supposed to have the other effect.

  • Jim Rockford says:

    Vdore — Prime Minister John Howard (you may have heard of him) gave a verbal smackdown to a reporter who asked just your question.
    His objective facts are:
    1. The 1998 Embassy bombings, Cole, and 9/11 were before Iraq.
    2. Bali bombing aimed at Australia was because of Australia’s assistance through the UN in helping East Timor achieve independence (East Timor being Christian you see, and Indonesia being Mohammedan).
    3. Al Qaeda took responsiblity for 7/7 and blamed Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
    4. Paki ancestry Britons who did it (and their families who justified it) were angry over Afghanistan as well as Iraq, and are NOT ARAB.
    Howard says it gives the game away and you might as well surrender to terrorists and let them run your entire life. This is born out by Spain which did EXACTLY what Bin Laden ordered and got out of Iraq. For their pains further attacks including another bombing of a train, assassination attempts against Judge Garzon (who issued the arrest warrant for Pinochet btw) and was investigating 3/11; and a planned bombing of the World Cup were barely thwarted. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda now demand the return of “Al Andalus” which was Moorish Spain (most of Spain in other words).
    Mohammedans and bin Laden and Al Qaeda operate in the sixth century. That’s their way of operations, the way they think they way they operate. Iraq, Afghanistan are totally irrelevant. They’ll always have something as long as we exist.
    Iraq as flypaper? Dunno about that one, but safety of a school bus in NJ depends on SEALS bravely snooping around Pakistan and Afghanistan, CIA and other agents all around the world, Customs and ICE agents, FBI investigating mosques and other Mohammedan organizations, and local law enforcement. Defense in depth which is our speciality and can be done only by a large and wealthy modern country. Not sixth century tribalists.

  • jason says:

    Bill, are you still writing primarily on windsofchange.net? I had kind of stopped checking this site as often after you announced that you would be blogging over there. great posts, by the way.

  • vucommodore says:

    Jim:
    I never said there wasn’t terror before Iraq. There obviously was. The jihadist leadership is not motivated by Iraq. Their goals are to turn the Middle East into a theocracy like when the Taliban were in Afghanistan. The question is not whether there were terrorists before Iraq. The question is whether Iraq has made it easier for them to recruit foot soldiers by providing a rallying cry and proving Bin Laden’s theory right that the United States does want to attack an oil-rich Arab nation. We don’t know this 100% for sure yet but it certainly appears that the War in Iraq has definitely not cut terrorism.

  • GK says:

    Jim Rockford wrote :
    ‘Mohammedans and bin Laden and Al Qaeda operate in the sixth century. ‘
    Technically, the Eighth century, to be precise…

  • GK says:

    V’dore wrote : ‘Their goals are to turn the Middle East into a theocracy like when the Taliban were in Afghanistan. ‘
    Then perhaps a good way to prevent that would be to install a democracy in a region that borders all dictatorial/theocratic states, particularly in a region that may have hidden WMD stockpiles.
    That might be a good way to prevent their goals that you have stated.
    Wait a minute – we did that already.
    V’dore wrote ‘proving Bin Laden’s theory right that the United States does want to attack an oil-rich Arab nation. ‘
    Then why did we free Kuwait and defend Saudi Arabia from Iraq? They both have more oil than Iraq.
    V’dore wrote : ‘We don’t know this 100% for sure yet but it certainly appears that the War in Iraq has definitely not cut terrorism. ‘
    I’m not sure how we can go rom zero attacks on US soil to less than zero. Of course, V’dore believes that, as part of a world community, it is the US’s responsibility to absorb our fair share of terrorism (33%, as we are 33% of the world’s economy). To prevent US terrorism through the WoT and Patriot Act, while allowing other countries to carry our ‘fair share’ is selfish and unilateral.

  • Justin B says:

    VU,

    Not sure where you got the idea that “proving Bin Laden’s theory right that the United States does want to attack an oil-rich Arab nation” was one of the outcomes of Iraq. I don’t remember him postulating on US Economic policy and that the US desired to invade countries to steal their oil.

    Perhaps you confuse OBL with your lefty buddies that have the signs that say, “No Blood for Oil” and that spout the anti-corporate rhetoric. I don’t think OBL is real worried about Haliburton or hates the US for the same reasons that the folks on the left that lean toward Communism and Socialism do.

    I think this kinda makes the point that many have stated that it is sometimes difficult to keep straight ideologically why OBL hates us and seperate that from why the ACLU and the left hate the US Government. The “We want to steal their oil cause our corporations are evil stuff” ain’t sellin’ round here. That is just stupidity since the first thing we did is allow the Iraqis to choose their own leaders or allow the Kuwaitis to take back control of their own government.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis