LONDON (Reuters) – A huge overnight security alert in Birmingham kept the country on edge on Sunday just three days after bombs ripped through London”s transport network killing at least 50 people.
Police evacuated 20,000 people from the centre of the city during the night and carried out a controlled explosion on a bus. They found no bombs but said the drastic measures were fully justified.
"The threat that we responded to yesterday was very specific," West Midlands police chief constable Paul Scott-Lee told a news conference.
"It was specific about the time and also the locations … The people of Birmingham were in danger last night."
As the city began to get back to normal, police continued their hunt for those who set off three bombs on the London Underground and blew up a doubledecker bus in a fourth blast.
Police said the three subway bombs went off almost simultaneously, making it more likely they were detonated by timers, rather than suicide bombers. That means the bombers may still be at large and could strike again, they said.
Anxious relatives continued to scour London”s hospitals in search of loved ones missing since Thursday”s blasts — the worst peacetime attacks on the city.
Investigators are still trying to retrieve bodies from a hot, narrow and rat-infested tunnel deep below ground at King”s Cross station.
Police, who have made no arrests, said they were looking for no specific individuals and that the bombs were made of high explosive, not home-made materials.
Three Islamist groups have claimed responsibility for the blasts, which government ministers said bore the hallmarks of the Islamic militant al Qaeda network, which was behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Writing in the News of the World newspaper on Sunday, London”s former police chief, Sir John Stevens, said he believed the bombings were almost certainly carried out by British terrorists, not foreigners.
He said police had foiled at least eight similar attacks in Britain in the past five years.
The bombings were expected to cast a shadow over celebrations in central London to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
Many observers have made comparisons between the way people dealt with this week”s attacks and the way a previous generation of Londoners coped with the wartime Blitz.
One Sunday newspaper printed photographs of emergency services treating survivors from Thursday”s bombings alongside black and white photos from the war.
"Different enemy, same spirit", ran the headline above the photos.