Queen urges resolve in face of terror as Britain remembers

A new generation called to arms for the country

July 11, 2005|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON - Londoners flocked to churches yesterday to grieve and to pray for the victims in last week's transit bombings as thousands prepared to return to work and the city center today for the first time since the attacks.

Far below ground, rescue workers reported progress in removing bodies from a shattered car on the Piccadilly subway line, where an unstable tunnel, 140-degree heat, rats and asbestos have made recovery efforts treacherous.

Authorities announced the arrests of three suspects at Heathrow Airport in alleged violations of anti-terrorism laws but said they had found no evidence linking them to Thursday's bombings. The men - all Britons - were released later yesterday without being charged. Officials did not say whether the arrests were related to the hunt for the bombers who killed at least 50 people and wounded 700 on London's subways and a bus.

More than 900 people have been arrested on anti-terrorism charges in Britain since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States. Nearly all have been released.

In London, with those who planned the bombings apparently still at large, Queen Elizabeth II defiantly paraded through throngs of people while standing in an open-top car, then sitting in her horse-drawn carriage as she led a commemoration of the end of World War II. She congratulated her subjects for managing their fears and asked them to fight for their country, like generations past.

"It does not surprise me that during the present difficult days for London, people turn to the example set by that generation - of resilience, humor, sustained courage, often under conditions of great deprivation," the queen said. "That example and those memories should be kept alive by younger generations as they in their turn strive to keep the peace in our troubled world."

The queen, whose role is largely ceremonial, rarely makes public addresses apart from brief congratulatory remarks. But she has spoken forcefully since Thursday's bombings, first in a speech insisting that any terrorist attack launched with the aim of changing the way of life in Britain would fail. And her comments yesterday marking the end of World War II could not be separated from last week's attacks.

Yesterday, after a vintage Lancaster bomber dropped a million poppies on the thousands of people gathered on the Mall, the queen thanked British veterans for their lasting legacy.

"At this special occasion I wish to express on behalf of the nation our admiration, our respect and our thanks to you for what you gave all those years ago in the cause of freedom and our way of life, which we shall continue to defend as you did," Queen Elizabeth said.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke, the government minister in charge of law and order, warned yesterday that Britons should remain vigilant, adding that until those responsible for last week's bombings are caught, further attacks are all too likely.

"The fact is, the terrorist threat is a real one, as we saw so dramatically and awfully on Thursday," he told the British Broadcasting Corp. "Our fear is, of course, of more attacks, until we succeed in tracking down the gang which committed the atrocities on Thursday, and that's why the No. 1 priority ... has to be the catching of the perpetrators."

Worshipers arriving at St. Pancras Parish Church, near where one of the bombs tore apart a double-decker bus and killed 13 people, walked up steps lined with bouquets, many with sympathy cards.

Memorial services also were held at St. Paul's Cathedral, where candles were lit in remembrance of the victims.

Shortly after the attacks, Prime Minister Tony Blair implied that the attackers were Muslim extremists, and that seems to be the belief among large segments of the British population, though police have said they have no evidence implicating any group. British authorities have said that the level of sophistication with which the attacks were carried out is consistent with al-Qaida operations.

Muslim groups have reported minor damage at four mosques since the bombing. Windows were broken in three of the incidents, and a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a mosque in Leeds. No injuries were reported.

Britain's top religious leaders met yesterday at London's Lambeth Palace and urged Christians, Jews and Muslims to unite in their condemnation of terrorism. Among them were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks; and Sheik Zaki Badawi, head of the Council of Mosques and Imams, who said the attackers represented no legitimate religion.

"It is an evil that cannot be justified and that we utterly condemn and reject," Badawi said.

At King's Cross subway station, the focus yesterday was on the victims. A steady stream of people entered a small fenced area where a single tree grows through the pavement. Some placed flowers; some cried.

"My tears are my sadness from inside," said Gbemisola Badejo, 28, who emigrated from Nigeria three years ago. "Human beings do not deserve to be killed in this way."

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