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Disruption and violence begin to dampen London's stoic attitude

LONDON—After two weeks of showing stiff-upper-lip stoicism in the face of terrorist attacks, some Londoners expressed growing apprehension Friday after two days in which another four bombs turned up in the mass-transit system and police shot dead a terrorism suspect aboard a subway train.

The strain was lessened by the fact that Thursday's bombs failed to explode. But with police presence heavy and transportation disruptions rampant, some frustration was evident.

Mark Smith, 36, a lifelong Londoner, said he was "dusting off my bike." He said he'd missed taking one of the stricken trains two weeks ago from King's Cross station by just 20 minutes. Thursday's attempted attacks hit trains near the two subway stations nearest his home.

"I just think it feels very unsafe, even in Tesco's," he said, referring to a British supermarket chain. "It's a lot different from the IRA; they always used to warn. This is just so much more scary."

Christobel Matthews, 30, said she was thinking of returning to her native Cameroon. "I thought here was safe but now I'm very afraid," she said. "If you don't drive, you cannot go about your business."

Taxi drivers said they'd been busier than usual in the past two weeks, and some insisted on scouring passengers' bags before taking a fare.

Still, other Londoners said they were unconcerned as they enjoyed a rare sunny day Friday.

"Because it was such an incompetent job, most people are taking it in stride," London Underground newsagent Ivor Fishbone said of Thursday's attempted bombings, though he acknowledged that his cavernous newsstand inside the Leicester Square subway station was "like a cemetery at the moment."

However, he laid that more to frustration and exasperation than to fear, noting that people were upset that they couldn't use the subway because of station closures.

Meanwhile, the square teemed with people lounging in the park, shopping and sipping drinks on the sidewalks. Many held cell phone conversations speculating about the bombers—still missing as of Friday evening—and their motives.

Tourists snapped pictures at the city's landmarks, appearing happy and relaxed, if cautious.

"We're not using the tube but we took a sightseeing bus," said Harriet Lyon, 63, who was on her third visit to London. She was shopping in Covent Garden with Yvonne Deibler, a fellow resident of Scottsdale, Ariz.

The pair said the recent disturbances wouldn't discourage them from returning.


(Potts is a Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondent.)


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

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