1st bomb victim identified

toll reaches 52

Blair tells Parliament attackers probably were `Islamist extremists'

July 12, 2005|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON - The death toll from the bombing attacks on London commuters reached 52 yesterday, a number made all the more real by the first formal identification of a victim, a woman who left behind a husband and two sons.

Her name was Susan Levy. She was 53.

Many Londoners were returning to work and central London yesterday for the first time since bombs ripped apart a bus and three subway cars during Thursday's morning rush hour. Officials said the number of passengers yesterday was just short of 3 million, a typical Monday.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, addressing the House of Commons for the first time since the attacks, said the resolve of Londoners to carry on, while the eyes of the world were upon them, did the country proud.

`Extremist terrorists'

Along with the praise, he told members of Parliament there was work to be done and, although police have not publicly acknowledged any evidence pointing to suspects, Blair said "it seems probable" the attackers were "Islamist extremist terrorists."

"The seventh of July will always be remembered as a day of terrible sadness for our country and for London," he said. "Yet it is true that just four days later, London's buses, trains and as much of its Underground as is possible are back on normal schedules.

"Its millions of people are coming to work with a steely determination that is genuinely remarkable."

Londoners as a whole, though, seemed to realize they were entering what would be a tough week, and many of them were already emotionally taxed.

For many people the weekend was more trying than relaxing as the severity of the bombings sank in along with a new inability to put out of their minds what they had long known, that London is a tempting target.

Since the bombings, dozens of security alerts have led to evacuations. Yesterday, police briefly closed several of London's most famous - and heavily guarded - streets, where government offices are located, including Parliament, the Foreign Office and 10 Downing St., Blair's residence.

False alarms

Later, false alarms led police to close the Waterloo Bridge over the Thames and the King's Cross subway station, which has become the largest gathering place in London for mourners.

Blair looked tired, too, as he thanked rescue workers and medics, police officers and firefighters, and as he praised the recovery teams that had extracted the last known body from a twisted subway car only yesterday and who returned to the tunnels again to search for victims who might have gone undetected under the cars that remain.

The prime minister said that he will stick to a schedule outlined earlier this year to bring forward anti-terrorist legislation during the current parliamentary session, first consulting with police and other agencies "to see whether there are additional powers they might need to prevent further attacks."

But he intended to stick to a schedule that would provide time for study, he said, although he added that if the investigation of last week's bombings makes it clear that police and intelligence agencies need powers sooner to combat further attacks, he will accelerate the timetable.

He also had a message specifically for Britain's Muslims, reassuring them that "People know full well that the overwhelming majority of Muslims stand four-square with every other community in Britain."

Evolution of city

Ending his remarks, he reminded Britons of the country's rich history and remarked on the evolution of London to a multicultural, multifaith city hardly recognizable from the London of World War II.

"So different and yet, in the face of this attack, there is something wonderfully familiar in the confident spirit which moves through the city, enabling it to take the blow but still not flinch from re-asserting its will to triumph over adversity," he said. "Britain may be different today, but the coming together is the same.

"Together we will ensure that though terrorists can kill, they will never destroy the way of life we share and which we value and which we will defend with the strength of belief and conviction so that it is to us - and not to the terrorists - that victory will belong."

Outside, in the borough of Westminster and all around London, rows of flowers were piled beneath trees, in parks, at the subway stations the bombed trains last departed.

London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, placed a bouquet beneath a tree in a downtown park and then returned to the banks of the River Thames, to City Hall, where dignitaries joined commoners and the leaders of several faiths stood symbolically together before signing a book of condolences.

As he had regularly before the bombings, the mayor rode the subway to work.

"We won't let a small group of terrorists change the way we live," he said.

The mayor later went to Victoria Embankment Gardens, a small park wedged between the Thames and London's busy theater district, to leave more flowers.

A permanent memorial to the victims of the attacks would be built there, he said, as a peaceful place of reflection.

London will honor the dead with two minutes of silence at noon Thursday. Drivers are being asked to stop their cars. Bus drivers will cut their engines. The mayor has asked Londoners to leave their houses or offices, gather outside and share the two minutes as neighbors to acknowledge what has been lost.

The death toll of 52 will likely increase, police said, because while they have removed all the bodies from the subway cars, there are almost certainly more within the tunnels, especially on the Piccadilly Line, where Susan Levy, the victim identified by authorities, was killed.

She was from Hertfordshire, outside London.

She had been traveling with her 23-year-old son, Jamie, before she separated from him and transferred to the Piccadilly Line. She had another son, Daniel, 25, and a husband named Harry, a London cabdriver.

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