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From the Associated Press





UP

Witnesses Say Men Fled From London Attacks


Friday July 22, 2005 11:01 AM

AP Photo LSD101

By ROBERT BARR

Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) - Investigators searched Friday for fingerprints, DNA and other forensic evidence from attacks on three subway trains and a double-decker bus that were hauntingly reminiscent of suicide bombings only two weeks before.

Jittery commuters - already facing cutbacks in service from the last attack - faced more Underground closures as they adjusted to a renewed threat of terrorism.

``People are worried, but if it's going to happen, it's going to happen isn't it?'' Chidi O'Hanekwu, 23, said Friday morning. Still, he said he found himself being ``a bit more paranoid'' on the ride in.

Authorities said it was too early to determine whether the attacks were carried out by the same organization as the July 7 blasts - or whether they were linked to al-Qaida or the work of unskilled imitators.

Police would not comment on the search for suspects, but witnesses described seeing men fleeing several of the scenes.

The devices in Thursday's attacks were either small or faulty, and authorities said the only reported injured was an asthma attack. But the nearly simultaneous lunch-hour blasts agitated a capital on edge since the July 7 bombings that killed 52 people and four suspected suicide bombers.

Harried passengers streamed in panic from the three Underground stations, some leaving their shoes behind in the scramble. Firefighters and police with bomb-sniffing dogs sealed off nearby city blocks and evacuated rows of restaurants, pubs and offices.

``We can't minimize incidents such as this,'' Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday. ``They're done to scare people, to frighten them and make them worried.''

Britain's Press Association news agency quoted unidentified sources as saying detectives were working on the belief that the bombs were not properly primed - a factor that limited the damage.

Two men were detained - one near the scene of one attack and another near Blair's Downing Street residence - but both were later released without charge, police said.

Commuter Abisha Moyo, 28, a business analyst, described hearing a bang and seeing a man lying atop a smoldering knapsack on the floor of his subway carriage at Warren Street station in central London.

``He had his eyes shut and there was a puff of smoke coming from the bag,'' Moyo was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail newspaper. ``Some girls started screaming, the emergency cable was pulled and everyone started running away from him towards the front of the train.''

Other witnesses reported smelling burning rubber and running between the wagons of the moving train to escape the smoke.

On Friday newspapers reflected the city's volatile mood - part defiance, part anxiety.

``Britain will not be beaten,'' vowed a front-page headline in the Daily Express. ``Is this how we must now live?'' asked the Daily Mirror over pictures of the attacks' aftermath. The Independent had a similar photo montage and the words: ``City of Fear.''

Mia Clarkson, 24, defiantly said she refused to change her schedule or commute at all. ``You've got to keep living, don't you?'' she said as she exited the Chancery Lane station after a trip from across town.

The Metropolitan Police appealed for witnesses to return to the scenes to give statements to teams of officers. The force also set up a Web site to receive amateur video and mobile telephone footage of the attacks and their aftermath.

``Clearly, the intention must have been to kill,'' Police Commissioner Ian Blair said. ``You don't do this with any other intention. And I think the important point is that the intention of the terrorists has not been fulfilled.''

This time, he was optimistic about quickly cracking the case. Forensic evidence collected from the crime scenes could provide a ``significant break'' in the latest attacks, he said.

NBC News reported that British authorities told their U.S. counterparts that backpacks and explosives used Thursday were identical to those in the July 7 attacks. And the British Broadcasting Corp. reported ``speculation'' that the devices were so similar they may even have been part of the same batch.

But Michael Clarke, director of the Center for Defense Studies at King's College, London, said Thursday's attacks looked ``very amateurish.''

``It looks like determined imitators who perhaps must have planned this a little while ago ... but it doesn't look quite like the same network behind it,'' Clarke told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

An armed police unit entered University College hospital near Warren Street shortly after the midday incidents. Sky News TV reported that police were searching for a man with a blue shirt with wires protruding from his pocket. Authorities cordoned off three small rooms in the building, which is near Warren Street, site of one of the attacks.

The incidents paralleled the July 7 blasts, which involved explosions at three Underground stations within a minute of each other starting at 8:50 a.m., followed by a bomb going off on a bus an hour later. All the explosions occurred in the city center.

Thursday's incidents were more spread out and began at about 12:38 p.m. They targeted trains near the Warren Street, Oval and Shepherd's Bush stations. The double-decker bus had its windows blown out on Hackney Road in east London.


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