Britons believe 7/7 copycat attack 'likely'

Britons believe 7/7 copycat attack 'likely'
3 min read
06 July, 2015
As the UK marks 10 years since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters, the country steps up its efforts to fight 'terrorism' on its soil.
The 2005 bombings in London were condemned around the world [Getty]

A large number of Britons believe that another attack on the scale of London's 7/7 bombings is likely, a recent poll has revealed, as the country's international terror threat is set at "severe".

The survey, conducted by YouGov for Huffington Post UK, also found that, of the 1,578 British people surveyed, more than half regarded Muslims as a "threat".

The figures come as the UK prepares to mark ten years since the July 7, 2005, attacks - in which four home-grown suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters in one of the deadliest attacks on British soil since World War II.

Carried out by young Britons "inspired by al-Qaeda", the bombings at Edgware Road, Aldgate and near Russell Square Tube stations, as well as on a bus in Tavistock Square, injured around 800 others.

Then-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, vowed that Britain would stop at nothing to defeat terrorism.

"Let no one be in any doubt," he said. "The rules of the game are changing."

Since the 9/11 attacks in the United States four years earlier, Britain had made its anti-terrorism powers among the toughest in the Western world.

After 2005, police were given extra powers to hold terrorism suspects for four weeks without charge, or to place them under a 16-hour-a-day curfew.

It became a crime not just to commit or plan for terrorism but to glorify terrorist acts. The government moved to deport extremist preachers who had made their home in Britain.

The ability of intelligence agencies to scoop up internet users' electronic data expanded vastly, and British spies began collecting information on their own citizens on a hitherto unseen scale.

Civil libertarians sensed the spread of a Big Brother state, and waged legal and political battles that managed to water down or reverse some of the measures.

But yet, a decade later, Britons are more watched than ever.

Toughening legislation

With the recent gun attack on tourists in Tunisia, which killed 30 Britons, it is visible that the "terrorist" threat has not gone away, and instead could spur a new round of counter-terror measures.

"We are a target. They have declared war on us whether we like it or not," British Prime Minister David Cameron said, three days after the massacre, with Britain's international terror threat set at "severe" - its second highest level.

Britain's strategy on "Islamist extremism" has been in the spotlight for months, since Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John" was identified as Mohammed Emwazi from London, and a string of young people left Britain to fight for the IS group in Syria.

Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt said the UK faced a simple choice: "Are we going to be strong or are we going to be weak in our response?"

The attack in Tunisia brought more promises of swift action.

Cameron has vowed to "step up efforts to support agencies in tracking vital online communications" and his Conservative government plans to introduce a new, more limited, version of the Communications Data Bill - known in previous failed incarnations as the "snoopers' charter".

Cameron has also proposed a law requiring schools and other public institutions to identify and tackle signs of radicalisation - a step opponents claim seeks to turn teachers into spies.

David Anderson, Britain's official reviewer of terrorism legislation, described the past decade as "five years getting tougher, five years cautious liberalisation".

"I think now we're at a crossroads," he added. "It remains to be seen what this government does."