LONDON,(Reuters) – As Britain marked the first anniversary of the London suicide bombings on Friday, the city’s chief police officer said the threat of another attack had grown.
One year after four young British Muslims blew themselves up on London’s transport system, killing 52 people and wounding 700, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair described the threat as “grim”.
“There are, as we speak, people in the United Kingdom planning further atrocities,” he told BBC Radio. “Since July, the threat has palpably increased.”
As Londoners went to work on Friday morning, stopping to lay flowers at the site of the July 7, 2005, attacks, the mood was one of unease mixed with resignation and defiance.
“I was there. It could have been me, so I am just lucky to be alive and remembering those who weren’t that lucky,” said Robert Andrews, 29, who was on one of the bombed London Underground trains.
“I am aware it could happen again but I am not worried,” he told Reuters. “I have just got to get on with my life.”
In what appeared to be a well-timed bid to fuel fears, a video surfaced on Thursday apparently showing one bomber, Shehzad Tanweer, reading his last statement before death.
The previously unseen video, broadcast on Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, also showed al Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri, suggesting a link between Osama bin Laden’s network and the bombers.
The failure of the police to charge anyone in connection with the attacks, despite an exhaustive inquiry, has added to unease.
The British government says it knows little about the motivation of the bombers, their possible training abroad or their alleged links to al Qaeda.
A survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project released in Washington on Thursday showed 42 percent of Britons were very concerned about a rise in Islamic extremism in Britain compared to 34 percent a year ago.
Many of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims feel their community has been unfairly targeted by the police since the attacks. Two botched anti-terrorist operations in which police shot two innocent men, killing one of them, have not helped.
Survivors of the bombings say an official report into the attacks published in May did not answer all their questions.
Many want a full public inquiry into the events which, like the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, have become etched into the British psyche as a simple date — 7/7.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose decision to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan was cited by Tanweer, and some commentators, as a reason for the bombings, will try to shift attention away from such criticism when he joins the nation in observing a 2-minute silence at midday (1100 GMT).
At 8:50 a.m. and at 9:47 a.m. — the times the bombs went off — candles of remembrance were lit under the vast dome of St Paul’s Cathedral as a single bell tolled.
Commemorative plaques were to be unveiled close to where the bombs went off later in the day.