2007 London car bombs
On 29 June 2007, in London, two car bombs were discovered and disabled before they could be detonated. The first device was left near the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket at around 01:30, and the second was in Cockspur Street, in the same area of the city.
|2007 London car bombs|
The Mercedes-Benz on Haymarket covered by a tent
|Date||29 June 2007|
|Target||Haymarket and Park Lane|
|Attempted car bombing|
|Perpetrators||Bilal Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed|
The first car was reported to the police by an ambulance crew attending a minor incident at the nightclub when they noticed suspicious fumes. About an hour later, the car containing the second device was ticketed for illegal parking, and an hour after that, transported to the car pound at Park Lane, where staff noticed a strong smell of petrol and reported the vehicle to police when they heard about the first device. Both vehicles were made by Mercedes-Benz, the first a light green metallic Mercedes-Benz W124 sedan, registration number G824 VFK, and the second was L708 VBB, which was another Mercedes-Benz W124 but in blue. The cars and their devices were recovered intact for forensic examination and both were found to contain petrol cans, gas canisters and a quantity of nails, with a mobile phone-based trigger.
The event coincided with the appointment of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister two days earlier, but Downing Street dismissed suggestions of a connection. A close link was quickly established to the 2007 Glasgow Airport attack the following day. Bilal Abdullah, arrested following the Glasgow attack, was later found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in relation to both incidents and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 32 years in prison.
The vehicle was reported to have contained 60 litres of petrol, gas cylinders, and nails. Scotland Yard reported that while the gas contained in the canisters and the quantity of the canisters remains unknown, further details would be given after they have been analysed by forensic experts. The head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command said, "It is obvious that if the device had detonated there could have been serious injury or loss of life."
A second bomb was later found in a blue Mercedes-Benz 280E believed to have been left in the same area at around the same time. The illegally parked car received a parking ticket in Cockspur Street at 02:30. At about 03:30 the car was transported to the Park Lane car pound. Staff left the car in a public area after smelling petrol fumes and alerted police on hearing about the first bomb.
US officials told NBC News that three men had been identified and were believed to be from Birmingham. The network reported that one of the three men could be an associate of Dhiren Barot, an Indian convert to Islam who was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for plotting to fill limousines with explosives similar to those found in these incidents and park them in garages beneath hotels and office complexes. Bharot also planned to attack five financial landmarks in the United States: the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup Center in New York City; the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both in Washington, D.C.; and the Prudential Building in Newark, New Jersey. Scotland Yard denied claims from a report by ABC News that police had a "crystal clear" picture of one suspect from CCTV footage.
A 27-year-old doctor from India, Mohammed Haneef was arrested at Brisbane Airport in Australia on 2 July in connection with the bombings in the UK. He was arrested while trying to board a flight with a one-way ticket to Bangalore, India, apparently to visit his newly born daughter. The arrest followed information received from the UK. As the case against him collapsed, Dr. Haneef was released with all charges dropped.
During the trial of Bilal Abdullah, arrested following the Glasgow airport attack, details emerged of the connection between the two incidents and the role of both Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed (who died as a result of injuries sustained in the Glasgow attack). E-mail and mobile phone conversations indicated the men first contacted each other in February 2007. Receipts and CCTV images discovered by police showed Kafeel Ahmed bought components for an improvised bomb, including nails, from hardware store B&Q. The pair were also believed to have carried out reconnaissance in London. On 28 June 2007 Ahmed and Abdulla left Scotland in the two-second-hand Mercedes vehicles and were recorded on CCTV driving to London and parking both vehicles in locations in the West End. After the bombs failed to detonate the men stayed at the Newham Hotel, Romford Road, before leaving London by train via Stansted. They were then captured again on CCTV at Johnstone railway station, near Glasgow. Returning to the "bomb factory" in Glasgow they modified the Jeep into an improvised bomb. Police were tracking both suspects via the mobile phones they had used to try to detonate the London devices and which the men were still carrying. After filling the Jeep with explosive material, Abdullah and Ahmed left early the following morning, driving around the Loch Lomond area for several hours before attempting their failed attack on Glasgow airport. Abdullah was sentenced life imprisonment to a minimum of 32 years in prison as a result of his involvement in both incidents.
|Local time (GMT+1)||Event|
|29 June 2007|
|01:25||London Ambulance Service crew report seeing smoke in a car parked in Haymarket. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen the car being driven "erratically" and then crashing into bins, after which the driver got out and ran off.|
|02:00||Metropolitan Police officers investigate the vehicle and cordon off the area.|
|02:30||A second car is found illegally parked in Cockspur Street, near Trafalgar Square.|
|03:30||The second car is taken to a car pound in Park Lane. Police manually disable a device in the first car.|
|04:00||A witness sees the police removing gas canisters from the car.|
|08:00||Piccadilly Circus Underground station is closed.|
|10:25||The car is taken from Haymarket and sent to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory's research site at Fort Halstead in Kent.|
|10:30||The COBR committee meets to discuss the issue. Piccadilly Circus Underground station is reopened.|
|14:30||Park Lane is closed off after a second suspect vehicle is discovered in an underground car park.|
|15:45||A police bomb investigation robot is seen near the entrance to the car park.|
|17:00||Police cordon off Fleet Street after finding a third suspicious vehicle.|
|18:00||Fleet Street re-opens after nothing is found in the vehicle.|
|19:00||Police confirm that a second device has been located at the Park Lane site.|
|20:45||Police confirm that both vehicles were packed with nails, petrol and gas cylinders.|
A spokesperson for Pride London stated that the route of their gay pride march, set for 30 June 2007, would be unchanged although extra precautions such as removing bins would be implemented. The police do not think the attacks were targeted at the event. Other suspicious vehicles in Park Lane and Fleet Street were investigated by police, as well as reports of suspicious cars in other areas of the UK, such as Warrington, which suffered a 1993 bomb attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
Office workers, students and tourists were still enjoying a Friday night out in London only hours after the discovery of the bombs. Bars and clubs remained open and London mayor Ken Livingstone urged the capital's communities to work together to defeat the terrorism threat.
Security at Wimbledon was increased as a result of the incident. Whitehall sources later stated that "international elements" were believed to be involved with the bomb. Police claim to have a "crystal clear" picture of the driver of the first car and suspect he may be an individual formerly detained in relation to the case of convicted terrorist Dhiren Barot. Barot was connected to an earlier "limousine bomb" plot, which also involved cars packed with propane gas cylinders.
CBS News reported that a message appeared on the widely used jihadist Internet forum Al-Hesbah at 08:09, 28 June 2007, stating: "Today I say: Rejoice, by Allah, London shall be bombed." The message went on to mention the recently announced knighthood of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie.
The following day, in another incident, a Jeep Cherokee was set on fire and driven into the main departure terminal of Glasgow Airport causing minor damage. Two men, believed to be of Asian appearance, were arrested at the scene. One, who had been on fire, was taken to a nearby hospital and the other to a police station. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that the attack is being treated as a terrorist attack and that the United Kingdom terrorism threat level has been elevated from "Severe" to "Critical", meaning "further attacks are expected imminently". In a press conference Glasgow police said this attack and the car bombs in London were believed to be linked. The BBC reported that a mobile phone found after the arrest of the Glasgow suspects contained the numbers of those involved in the London bombing attempts.
At approximately 21:30 on 30 June, officers of the Metropolitan Police and West Midlands Police arrested two people at junction 16 on the northbound M6 motorway near Sandbach in south Cheshire, blocking the motorway for about 40 minutes.
On 18 December, gallantry awards for two of the Metropolitan Police explosive officers involved in defusing the devices were gazetted. Paul Humphrey received the Queen's Gallantry Medal (the third highest such medal in the UK honours system), and Gary Anthony Wright received the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.
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