US official cites London bombing probe’s ‘urgency’
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. investigators suspect those who
carried out deadly terror bombings in London last week remain
alive, adding urgency to the investigation, Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Sunday.
The United States has sent FBI agents with forensic
expertise to help British authorities analyze the crime scene,
which authorities in both countries say bear the hallmarks of
the al Qaeda network that attacked the United States on Sept.
“And I think we’re proceeding on the assumption that the
bombers are still at large, and of course that adds a special
urgency to figuring out who’s done this,” Chertoff said on the
ABC television program “This Week.”
Four blasts tore through London’s transport network on
Thursday, killing more than 50 people on three subway trains
and a double-decker bus.
Chertoff said it was too early to conclude that no suicide
bombers had been involved.
Police in London said the subway bombs went off almost
simultaneously, making it more likely they were detonated by
timers rather than suicide bombers.
British police said they had arrested three people under
terrorism laws at London’s Heathrow airport early on Sunday but
had no cause so far to link them to the bombings. They also
appealed to the public for images taken at the attack sites.
Frances Townsend, President Bush’s homeland security
adviser, said in an interview on Fox News Sunday the bomb that
went off on the bus may have been carried by someone trying to
put it on a subway car.
“The forensics aren’t there yet to say that these were
suicide bombers,” she said. “The one that we have to look at
… is the one on the bus, that’s not as clear.”
She said Britain’s emergency response may have prevented
the bomb on the bus from going into the subway system.
“What happened was that bus was not on its normal route,
that bus was diverted as a result of the initial bombings
inside the underground system, and so it was off its normal
“So that bomber, or the individual carrying that bomb, may
not have been able to get into the subway system,” she said.
Chertoff, on ABC, said: “Clearly we’re dealing with a group
that is sympathetic to al Qaeda.”
In a separate appearance on the NBC program “Meet the
Press,” Chertoff was asked whether al Qaeda was “alive and
well” despite the U.S.-declared global war on terrorism sparked
by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Well, it is,” he replied. He referred both to a core group
led by Osama bin Laden and a network of semi-autonomous groups
that he said predated 2001.
Chertoff declined to estimate how long U.S. terror alert
levels for buses, subways and trains would remain at elevated
levels after they were raised last week in response to the
“We’re obviously going to continue into Monday with the
rush hours,” Chertoff said. “We’ll continue to look at it next
week and we’ll see where we are.” (Additional reporting by