Politics & Policy

London, Attacked

Terrorists try what Hitler couldn't do.

This morning (July 7) “The Secret Cell of Al-Qa’ida of Jihad Group in Europe” (Jama’at al-Tanzim al-Sirri, Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Urupa) posted a statement on the Fortress (al-Qal’ah) jihadist website claiming credit for the “blessed raid” on London. They claimed the attacks were “revenge from the British Zionist Crusader Government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The poster stated that the attacks had been planned over a long period of time, and that the British government had been repeatedly warned that something like this could happen. “Britain is now burning with fear, terror, and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters,” the poster claimed, and warned that Denmark, Italy, and “all the Crusader governments” will face similar attacks if they do not pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan.

The London bombings are likely part of a wider al Qaeda summer offensive. A letter attributed to Osama bin Laden addressed to the Muslim community (ummah) surfaced in Pakistan on June 20, stating that he was “preparing for the next round of jihad.” He wrote that “we want to give good news to the Muslim ummah that, with the blessings of Almighty Allah, we have been successful in reorganizing ourselves and are going to launch a jihadi program that is absolutely in accordance with the changed situation.” He stated that new recruits were ready, and that they were armed with the weapons of the enemy (no indication what that means exactly). He also threatened the rulers of Muslim countries who have not signed onto his program (which is all of them, at least publicly). More foreign fighters have appeared and are active in Afghanistan and diplomats from Muslim countries are being systematically targeted in Iraq.

As major al Qaeda attacks go, this morning’s in London resulted in fewer casualties than usual–or at least that is the impression at this writing. The London attacks mirror the March 11, 2004 attacks on commuter rail lines in Madrid that influenced the Spanish elections and helped lead to Spain’s decision to pull out of Iraq. Over 1,800 people were wounded and 191 killed in that attack. The timing looks odd compared to Madrid, coming as it does shortly after the British parliamentary elections. It is also unusual timing given that Britain had just announced a planned troop draw-down in Iraq. There could be a tie-in to the trial in London of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, perhaps to the G-8 summit, probably not to the announcement that London would host the 2012 Olympics.

It is doubtful that these attacks will influence British policy, at least in any way favorable to al Qaeda or its ideological allies. Londoners are no strangers to terror attacks. According to the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, there have been 126 terrorist incidents in London since the late Sixties, making it among the most targeted European capitals. (Note: There have been 309 attacks in Paris over the same period.) London has been attacked not only by the IRA, but also the Popular Front for the Liberation, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Abu Nidal Group, and now al Qaeda. Not to mention the Blitz during World War II. If Hitler’s Luftwaffe could not break Britain’s will, what chance do the terrorists have?

James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, a trustee for the Leaders for Liberty Foundation, and an NRO contributor.

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