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One day after the announcement of London as the location of the 2012 Olympics, four bombs detonated in the capital of the United Kingdom, targeting users of London's transport system. Three of the bombs targeted the London Underground around 0850, first on the Circle line between Aldgate and Liverpool Street, the next at Edgware Road station and the third on the Piccadilly line between Russell Square and King's Cross (ISC REPORT, 2006). A fourth device, targeting users of a London bus, detonated at 0947 in Tavistock Place. Fifty-six people were killed by direct terrorist action and several hundred were injured by the devices, with the aftermath of the event still felt today. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the attack is that the whole event was estimated to have costs around £8,000 to carry out (7/7 REPORT, 2006) whilst the social and economic damage was extensive. A further attempt on July 21 to attack the London transport system further demonstrates the opportunities available to terrorists to cause wide scale damage and disruption at minimal cost.
The aim of this essay is to explain through a case study why the 7/7 bombers targeted the London transport network, how their attack damaged London transport and how damage to the London transport network, as an identified part of the UK's critical infrastructure (http://www.cpni.gov.uk, 2010), caused widespread social and economic damage to London and the UK as a whole. It will identify the difficulties facing transport as part of the UK's critical infrastructure, risk assessments, why the bombers identified the London transport network as their target, their choice of suicide bombing as the method to carry out the attack and the overall cost to the UK of the attack.
ASSESSING TRANSPORT'S VULNERABILITY AS A CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
The European Union defines critical infrastructure as "consisting of those physical and information technology facilities, networks, services and assets which, if disrupted or destroyed, would have a serious impact on the health, safety, security or economic well-being of citizens or the effective functioning of governments in the Member States" (EU, 2004). Specifically, the transport networks of nations are widely recognised as being critical to a country's national security under the above definition, with the UK identifying "the real threat to guard against in the field of transport is physical" (PITCOMM, 2006). In the US doctrine hand book on critical infrastructure, it says "the area includes aviation, rail, pipelines, highways, trucking and bussing, and public mass transit. The scope of the transportation sector makes it critical to both our economy and national security" (DCSINT Handbook No. 1.02, 2006). The vulnerability of the world's transport networks has certainly not gone unnoticed by terrorists with consistent targeting of bus, rail and airline networks. The vulnerability of the world's airlines has repeatedly been attacked through hijackings and bombings (such as the 1988 Lockerbie bombing), but the ability of terror groups to constantly adapt led to shocking events such as the 9/11 attacks with the aircraft themselves used as weapons. As recently as Oct 2010, al-Qaeda linked groups smuggled explosive devices onto planes heading to the UK and USA (BBC NEWS, 2010). Even accidental damage to the transportation networks can occur, such as the dropping of a fancy dress hat onto electric rails which shut down part of the London Underground during Halloween (BBC News, 2010).
The targeting of trains is also not unique; both in Madrid (2004) and Tokyo (1995) the rail and underground networks were targeted in varying methods. The Tokyo attack being particularly unique in the use of Sarin gas, using the enclosed spaces and concentrated numbers of people making the network particularly vulnerable to chemical attack. Balancing these threats against the requirement of sometimes millions of users daily needs to be balanced in the risk assessments of the governments who must protect their critical infrastructure. A table identifying potential threats is below (BLAND, 2006):
TYPE OF HAZARD
Confined space Electrical (traction) current Sharps/debris
Heat Tunnel collapse
Combustion agents Particulate (dust) debris
Biological debris, including
needle stick risks (bone fragments)
Low dose debris/dust
High dose fragments/
(? bus bomb)
The cost of balancing every risk and possibility would be vast and identifying every possible risk would be almost impossible; as a result, security planners can only plan for generic risks but prepare for their plans to be as adaptive as possible should an unpredictable but effective attack take place. Therefore, though the results of risk assessments may indicate what are likely, plans should consider how to respond to unlikely events also (BROWN, 2005).
Modelling and simulations have developed along with the complexities of risk assessments to become an important took in the protection of critical infrastructures and also to find and resolve inter-connectivity weaknesses with other critical infrastructures. Rinaldi writes that "Infrastructures do not exist in isolation of one another - telecommunication networks require electricity, transportation networks often use sophisticated computerized control and information systems, the generation of electricity requires fuels and so forth" (RINALDI, 2004). One inter-dependency between transport and other infrastructures involve key personnel. Without transport, workers cannot get from home to their place of work, which may involve electricity generation, gas networks etc.
One model for measuring inter-dependency and vulnerability are the 'Attacker-Defender' mathematical models. These are described by Brown as "the core of an attacker-defender model is an optimization model of an infrastructure system whose objective function represents the system's value to society while it operates or the cost to society when the system loses functionality" (BROWN, 2005). Solving these models using mathematics delivers the user the optimal method for identifying inter-dependencies, vulnerabilities and defensive activities to protect the critical infrastructure. For the London transport network, the inter-dependencies and vulnerabilities would be vast, making it a prime target for terror groups hoping to achieve as much damage with as little as effort as possible.
Lastly, using the CIP Cycle model (comprising criticality assessment, threat assessment and
vulnerability assessment) for identifying the London transport network's risk should it be damaged, the weaknesses in the underground are profound. Not only is it extremely important to the working of London, its use by millions everyday make it extremely vulnerable. Only the threat assessment
is the one inconsistent factor; depending on what the attackers hoped to achieve would depend on their choice of target. In this case, the London transport system presented an easy target.
Three of the bombers, Hasib Hussein, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, grew up in Beeston and Holbeck on the outskirts of Leeds. They were second generation British citizens whose parents had settled in the UK some years previously. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the backgrounds of the three as they grew up in Beeston and their later activities at University, College and work though all three began developing a more fundamentalist perspective in their religious activities following the 9/11 attacks, with Hussain showing sympathies for al-Qaeda following a Hajj to Saudi Arabia in 2002 ((7/7 REPORT, 2006). Khan, because of his experience in working with difficult young persons, appears to have taken the role as leader of the group. His ability to influence others may have had a significant effect on the others, though official reports after the attacks are unable to identify when Khan turned to violent methods.
The fourth bomber, Jamal Lindsay, was born in Jamaica and moved to Huddersfield with his mother when very young (7/7 REPORT, 2006) and experienced quite a troubled youth with separation from his father, a difficult step-father and an apparent abandonment by his mother in 2000. Again, it is not known when Lindsay and Khan met however as both were actively involved in the same Islamic circles in the area it is likely they met through the local Islamic community.
The four were in effect 'clean skins', meaning the security services had no real knowledge of their activities in planning an attack and no disruption usable intelligence was available (GREGORY, 2005). When reviewing the material available after the attacks, the security services managed to identify Khan as having attended a training camp organised by two known extremists in 2001 with a group of forty other men. After the police reviewed their files they found an image, taken at this training camp, of KHAN who they had not been able to identify (HOWELLS, 2009).
The motivation of the four to become suicide bombers appears to be a desire for martyrdom and an affiliation for other Islamic terrorist groups and their leaders, with particular support for Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, which Khan stated in a video released after the event and also in his will (7/7 REPORT, 2006). Very little evidence exists for the other three bombers on their motivations. Their claimed affiliation with al-Qaeda is most likely through the franchising of the al-Qaeda 'brand', allowing small groups to affiliate themselves with a bigger organisation. Considering that Hussein, Tanweer and Khan led relatively ordinary lives and appeared to be well integrated into British society suggests they may have been acting on the wider interests of the Muslim Community (SINGH, 2010).
TARGETING AND METHODS OF THE 7/7 ATTACKS
Luis de la Calle and Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca in their work on ETA and PIRA target analysis identify three types of killings when choosing targets; selective, generic and indiscriminate (LA CALLE and SANCHEZ-CUENCA, 2006). They define these types as: "selective killings are based on the behaviour of the victim, generic killings on the occupation of the victim and indiscriminate killings on ascriptive traits of the person (religion, colour, race, etc.) (LA CALLE and SANCHEZ-CUENCA, 2006). The modus operandi of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups often involves suicide attacks using unconventional methods and targets that will cause the most casualties, regardless of the background of said casualties. The September 11th attacks and the 2004 Madrid train bombings are two particularly similar attacks which used transport networks to cause mass indiscriminate killings.
It is also important to recognise the importance of ideology in terms of the selection of a target and the method the attack is carried out in. According to Drake, ideology is the founding motivation of target selection, since it has a strong influence on strategy (DRAKE, 1998). The process below explains how this ideology develops into a strategy (SMITH, 1995):
Ideology ƒ Analysis ƒ Strategy
(basic motivation and the (evaluation of military instrument within (employment of military
definition of objectives) context but inevitably affected by instrument in policy to
normative influences and values of achieve ends)
It has already been shown that it is likely that the bombers were acting out of frustration of the UK's perceived aggressive actions against fellow Muslims throughout the world. The FCO's paper on Young Muslims and Extremism released in April 2004 recognised the existence of the 'Ummah', "that believers and one 'nation'. This seems to have gained significant prominence in how some Muslims view HMG's policies towards Muslim countries" (FCO, 2004). This anger and frustration based on the bombers ideology and analysis of the problem showed that there was little they could do to prevent HMG's actions except through shocking and indiscriminate actions. This frustration in regards to the Ummah may have caused a sense of hopelessness in their situation, recognised by some as the key cause of suicide, more so than depression (RAI, 2006). Rai list a number of psychological aspects from the Canadian Psychological Association which may have contributed to causing the bombers to choose suicide bombing as their strategy (RAI, 2006). These include narrow thinking, ambivalence, sense of vulnerability and problem relationships (CPA, 2010).
It is clear then why the 7/7 bombers would again choose the London transport network for their attack. Transport for London comprises several methods for moving millions of people around the capital every day. London buses carry four million passengers daily (www.tfl.gov.uk, 2010) while the Underground system is used by 2.95 million daily (www.directrail.com, 2010). Because of the economic importance of transport as a whole and the London transport network specifically, the United Kingdom recognises transport as part of its National Critical Infrastructure. It can also be seen why the four bombers would choose the London Underground and the bus network as targets:
The sheer number of people travelling the same routes everyday would not make any journeys by the four appear suspicious.
Those using the transport would be confined into a small space with a large number of other people, meaning a small device would have a greater effect. This would reduce their own logistic problems and allow them to carry out a cheaper attack, reducing the risk of exposure.
The wider social and economic damage caused by attacks on a transport system used daily by millions would have a greater effect than arbitrarily killing UK citizens.
Finally, the timing of the attack appears to be important also. First, many of the Metropolitan police officers were at Gleneagles for the G8 conference in Scotland. Second, the timing of some of the bombings at 0850 appears to be connected to a particularly strong worded part of the Koran (RAI, 2006). Finally, statements made by Khan referring to the recently held general elections in May, which saw the re-election of the Labour party and Tony Blair, who Khan saw as being the architect of the war in Iraq, against the Islamic Ummah indicate that he was disappointed and further frustrated by the British peoples perspective of the war (RAI, 2006). This may have been the final catalyst that pushed Khan towards committing to a suicide attack.
EFFECTS OF THE ATTACK
The attacks had considerable economic and social effects which are still affecting events five years later. Critically, the most obvious effect was the loss of life and number of injured persons from the four devices, which reached a total of 775 casualties and 56 deaths, 53 at the scene (AYLWIN, 2006). The emergency services were stretched to capacity with 18 seriously injured patients per hour being received by hospitals and resuscitation room capacity was reached within 15 minutes. 17 patients needed surgery and 264 units of blood products were used in the first 15 hours, close to the hospital's routine daily blood use. However, critical mortality was low at 15% and due to availability of resources (AYLWIN, 2006). The communication network was rapidly overwhelmed, with communication between control centres and the scenes of the events almost impossible due to overloading of the networks, forcing agents on the ground to use less sophisticated methods needing limited comms bandwidth, such as text messaging (BLAND, 2006) (another sign of infrastructure inter-dependency). Response to the events would likely have been quicker with more lives saved had better consideration of the use of the communications network have taken place beforehand.
After the attacks, the London transport network was effectively shut down because of the complete closure of the underground network and the all Zone 1 bus routes were suspended while checks for explosive devices were made on the buses and at depots (SEGELL, 2005). These were reopened in a limited capacity at around 4pm for London workers to travel home. However, by the following day all bus routes and 80% of the London underground network was re-opened, with Londoners demonstrating "Blitz spirit" in their tenacity to continue as normal (SEGELL, 2005).
The attack however further demonstrated the weakness in the security of the London transport network. The ease with which the four carried out their attack on the network was repeated on the 21 July, where again three bombers attacked underground trains and one bomber attacked a London bus (BBC NEWS, 2010). On this occasion, all devices failed with only one individual who was an indirect casualty. This attack however did cause a heightened tension with Londoners and Police and the security forces which led to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in error at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July, 2005. This shooting led to wide spread discussions on the limits of counter-terror methods. It was also a success for the terrorists who carried out the bombings, causing an over-reaction by security forces. This is disappointing in that aside from this action, the actions of the UK in response to the attacks was excellently conducted (BELTON, 2010).
Lastly, the economic effects caused by the attacks were not as damaging in the long term as were initially expected. The pound initially fell 0.89 cents against the US $, a 19-month low with the FTSE 100 index falling by around 200 points in the first two hours after the attacks (LAWRENCE, 2005). By the end of the 8 July, the markets had in most part recovered. The costs to London itself is quite difficult to quantify, though it is known to be less than the £75,000,000 worth of insurance provided by Pool Re, the government sponsored insurer. It would be worth taking into consideration the reduction of visitors to London, which rose from 21% after the first attack to 27% after the second (LONDON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, 2005)
The 7/7 bombings were shocking in their ability to cause loss of life through the targeting of an aspect of the UK's critical infrastructure which was put in use by around six million Londoners each day. Through constant reviews of risk assessments and the use of models and simulations, inter-dependency issues such as the collapse of the communications network can be identified early and challenges overcome in order to significantly reduce potential loss of life. Risk assessors, security and intelligence forces and even users of the transport networks recognise that such attacks are so unlikely, that any heightened measures put in place could only be maintained for a short time (BELTON, 2010), while passengers also recognise that such heightened protection or avoiding the public transport network completely would be an over-reaction to the threat, with the Londoners 'Blitz spirit' being a demonstration of peoples' practical need to travel. Simply put, the threat of attack and likelihood of being involved in such an incident is so low, there would be no logical reason to avoid public transport.
Constant planning and reassessing of generic threats to deal with low risk, high damage attacks are needed to ensure the UK's critical infrastructure network is able to continue operating. Events such as 7/7 highlight the important of recognising the threat to critical infrastructure is not 2-dimensional; modern infrastructure has inter-dependencies which make every aspect of the UK's infrastructure integral to its overall protection.