Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tube Terror in London

Just finished going over this BBC story on the blasts. Something seems to me to be significant about the locations of the London tube bombings. What it is I haven’t quite figured out, yet – as if I ever will. But humor me a little. This is based on my limited knowledge of London trains and buses and my previous life's experiences - which are too tame to recall here.

The first blast was on the westbound Circle line, just after the Circle joins the right-of-way of the Hammersmith and City line and turns west toward the west end. The two rights-of-way then run east to west parallel with each other for a few miles, and though I’m not sure of their relative elevations underground, would presume they are close (within 50’) of each other in height, and abut or overlay one another most of that way.
If the bomb had gone off 20 seconds or so earlier it would probably have cleared the other right-of-way, most likely doing a lot less collateral damage – if indeed any at all. So that blast was cutting it pretty close; just a few yards difference in time by being earlier would have significantly increased the tracks’ separation – doing less damage. Was this planning? Or coincidence?

The second blast was five minutes later on an outbound Piccadilly train that had just left Russell Square and was almost half-way to its next stop, King’s Cross. This was the deadliest of the explosions, presumably doing the most damage.
The Piccadilly line does not run next to any other in this area, BUT the next station, King’s Cross, (probably less than 45 seconds away) is a major linkage point for the Hammersmith and City, Circle and Northern lines. They are all at different elevations than Piccadilly, and the Northern is not on the same level as the other two, but they could – or might not – be side by side or one atop the other in the King’s Cross station – I just didn’t look that up yet because that wasn’t as important, I believe. But how significant is the proximity to the Hammersmith and City or Circle lines? Could this location have been picked because it was not the Circle line?

The third blast was twenty one minutes later and again on the Circle line, just as it was leaving the Edgeware Road station. This blast was so powerful it blew a hole through a wall separating the Circle train from another – most likely a Hammersmith and City. Why was there so much time between blasts two and three? Why not detonate earlier? Was this one timed and unattended?

This ends the blasts on the trains.

The fourth blast took place exactly 30 minutes later aboard a double-decker bus on a surface street that runs north of Russell Square station and was coincidently (?) almost midway between Russell Square and the main road to King’s Cross. Fairly close geographically (but on the surface) to blast two (which was deep underground). There has been some initial speculation this could be the work of a suicide bomber, but time will tell on that issue.
From available photos it looks to me as the bomb site on the bus was near the rear portion of the upper level seating area, which would not be extremely close to the driver. It was one of the new type one-person crew buses (the old “Roadmasters” require a two person crew. a driver forward and a conductor at the rear). On the new buses the stairwell is directly behind and partially above the driver, and would afford a slight amount of blast protection from above and to the rear.
Since reports state the roof of the bus came loose and flew up in the air, it seems most likely to me the bomb was topside. One note: The modern buses all have good multi-camera closed circuit TV monitors feeding into the driver’s compartment, but obviously a back-pack or small bundle could have been stuck down between or under a seat in a location not completely covered by the CCTV view.

Another note: Many London bus riders carry aboard all kinds of packages, including shopping bags, back-packs, luggage, diaper bags, etc., etc. In fact the modern coaches all have built-in luggage storage racks across the aisle from the driver’s window on the lower level (above the left front wheel well). If the blast site were found to be lower level, this would have been my choice of locations, but from photos it looks more like the rear. A blast on the lower level here should not have lifted off the entire roof section, two panels above.

ANALYSIS: The bus bomb was most likely either a ‘left-behind’ or suicide. My vote is ‘left-behind’. If so, it was more of a nuisance or random bomb timed to go off and spread the terror, than an attempt to take out a bunch of riders. Early reports say the body count at the fourth site is two. But time will tell.

This leads back to the other three bombs. It seems to me all three blast sites were on or adjacent to the Hammersmith and City line and/or the adjacent Circle line. Since the bombers at this stage are thought by some to have completely slipped under the radar of the rather excellent UK counter-terrorism force, I would bet they were personally in-country for a very short period of time. Just long enough to learn the lay of the land, strike and hunker down.
Or they were home-grown and a small enough group to keep their assignment bottled up for a brief period.

If it were my call, I’d sure be spending quite a few assets looking for newcomers and discontents in the numerous Muslim enclaves scattered all over London’s west end and north-side and likely convienent to or adjacent to the Hammersmith and City or Circle lines. A review of the ubiquitous traffic, commerce and transport depot CCTV tapes for the past 30 days from these areas would likely be extremely productive.

Further speculation alert. Irrespective of support staff, this could have been a striker team of no more than three madmen - maybe even two.

These people aren’t rocket scientists, even if they’re deadly. I’m betting they will be pinched in less than four days.


Canadi-anna said...

Do you really think they'll be caught?
I know they have a lot of cameras around London, but I can't help thinking how anonymously people can do things.

I read? heard? (can't remember which) someone said that a witness saw someone on the bus fiddling with a bag. That's why the initial specualtion that the bus was a suicide bomber -- now the thought is that the person intended to leave the bus, but the bomb went off before they were ready.
So much speculation really, I guess.
They talk how this would have to be plotted out for ages, etc. It seems so simple. It surprises me that it doesn't happen every day.
When you look at Israel, you have to wonder when that sort of thing is going to start being the way of life everywhere. That's depressing.
I hope you're right though. I hope they catch them.

The Mayor said...

i read somewhere that the three stations hit were all in areas of high muslim population, as a means of firming up support and generating awe in them

fenris badwulf

49erDweet said...

Yes to canadi-anna. The brits are good! And the cameras everywhere. It will take time, but Muslims were among the victims - and most don't want what these guys are selling, like the Mayor pointed out - ergo quiet cooperation with Scotland Yard.

Great blogs on this in London. Google London Underground and go wild!

Got to update this later today, after church.

God bless.