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British authorities vow to hunt down perpetrators

LONDON—Displaying remarkable grit, Londoners took buses, subways and taxis back to work Friday in defiance of terrorists as authorities pledged "implacable resolve" to hunt down those responsible for the subway and bus bombings that killed at least 50 people.

Buses and trains ran normally, and only three of London's 12 underground subway lines remained out of service from Thursday's terror bombings.

"We will not be beaten down by terrorism," British Transport Police Chief Willie McCafferty said outside the King's Cross subway station, where forensic teams scoured a blast site deep underground for criminal evidence.

In sharp contrast to the United States, where many Americans felt the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks transformed them forever, Britons seemed determined to show that Thursday's blasts wouldn't alter their way of life.

"It's absolutely the reverse of the United States. ... We'll treat this (terror campaign) purely as an inconvenience," said Paul Dadge, a volunteer rescuer whose image appeared on the front page of several of Europe's major newspapers.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said the death toll had likely passed 50 people and may rise further as teams clear wreckage of a train near Russell Square station. Twenty-two of the 700 people wounded in the bombings are hospitalized in "critical condition," he said.

The toll climbed as police increased from two to 13 the number of people killed on a double-decker bus near Tavistock Square.

The bus bombing and blasts aboard three rush-hour tube trains were each caused by "less than 10 pounds of high explosives," London police special operations chief Andy Hayman said. The bombs aboard the subways were placed on the floor near the doors of the first carriages in the trains, he said.

Fatalities included visitors from Sierra Leone, Australia, Portugal, Poland and China, but no Americans thus far.

Police put up huge screens to block the view of Tavistock Square as they combed for clues to determine whether the blast that ripped through the bus was triggered by a suicide bomber, a timer or remote control.

"Most important is the forensic evidence," Home Secretary Charles Clarke told the British Broadcasting Corp. "We are looking for a small number of evil needles in a very big haystack."

Clarke said an unprecedented manhunt was designed to halt further attacks.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone praised the work of the emergency services. "Everything we had planned for on this day we knew would happen worked like clockwork," he said.

Some schools were shut in metropolitan London, but stores functioned normally. Museums operated partially, keeping some galleries closed because guards were unable to arrive to work. Streets grew jammed as some commuters opted for taxis rather than the London Underground, which normally has 3 million riders a day. Blaring sirens and racing police cruisers grew less frequent throughout the day.

"It's upsetting what happened, but as you can see we are going about our day-to-day business," said Sarah Scott, a retired cashier who was dropping off a friend at a rail terminal.

"Things are running relatively smoothly," said Garnet Matthews of Network Rail, the major rail service. Asked if he was frightened by the bombings, Matthews said, "Bin Laden, he can't frighten me. I'll take the bus. I'll take the train anytime."

Saudi terror mastermind Osama bin Laden hasn't been directly linked to Thursday's attacks, but an apparent part of his network calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe" claimed responsibility for what it termed the "blessed invasion in London."

Financial markets shrugged off the crisis. After plunging briefly Thursday, London's FTSE 100 index raced back past its pre-blast level of 5,123 to end 1.4 percent higher than Thursday's close.

Terrorism experts said they weren't surprised by the rapid return to normalcy in London, Europe's most populous capital, which faced heavy sustained bombing during World War II and a terror campaign by the separatist Irish Republican Army in the 1980s and early 1990s.

"Remember, this country has had an IRA for a long term," said Are Holen, a psychiatrist and disaster researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. Moreover, he added, London endured ferocious bombardment from the Nazi Luftwaffe during a blitzkrieg campaign more than six decades ago.

"They had Winston Churchill say during the Second World War, when the bombs were falling, `Business as usual,'" Holen said.

Blair, the police chief, said the past had prepared Britain: "If London can survive the blitz, we can survive four miserable events like this."

Blair noted that Friday, a Muslim day of prayer, passed without incident in London.

Forensic teams combing three underground sites are toiling "under the most extreme circumstances," said Hayman, the special operations chief.

He said teams had yet to arrive at one carriage of a wrecked train, located 100 yards outside the King's Cross station going toward Russell Square, because the tunnel is unstable from the blast.

At other sites, forensic experts "are looking for body parts, DNA, pieces of any (explosive) devices that might be there. It's like a massive jigsaw puzzle, really," said McCafferty, the transit police chief.

Much of London remained gripped by the fruitless search of several families for missing loved ones. Among them: Jamie Gordon, a financial administrator, who was at Tavistock Square boarding the ill-fated No. 30 bus. Also getting on a bus there was Neetu Jain, a computer analyst, who had been forced out of a tube train when the system was shut by the blasts.

The tragedy pulled Britain's royalty out to the hospitals.

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, visited injured victims at St. Mary's Hospital, and a Buckingham Palace statement said Queen Elizabeth II also planned to visit terror victims.

Criticism of the security services' failure to detect the attacks remained relatively muted. Blair, the London police chief, admitted that the blasts "came out of the blue."

Early last month, the MI5, the nation's domestic security service, issued an advisory note downgrading the threat from international terrorism from "severe general" to "substantial," noting that the threat was lower than at any time since Sept. 11, 2001.

An official of the London Underground, Robin Grigsby, said workers were well-trained to deal with a disaster, such as a terror attack.

"You always fear for the worst, put in place a well-rehearsed plan, then carry it out," Grigsby said.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): ATTACKS-LONDON

GRAPHICS (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20050708 ATTACKS compare, 20050708 ATTACKS forensic, 20050708 ATTACKS explosive and 20050708 ATTACKS US transport

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