Business as usual for London


LONDON'S Mayor and the capital's police chief have given a joint press conference to assure residents and visitors that it's business as usual in London, despite the continuing threat of terrorism and the high alert in the city following the Madrid bombing.

Mayor Ken Livingstone said London was one of the safest cities in the world, with the most likely targets for terrorists covered with closed-circuit television cameras and other security measures. However, he said, "Given that some terrorists are prepared to give up their own lives, it would be inconceivable that someone does not get through."

Police chief, Commissioner Sir John Stevens said police and security services had already stopped numerous terrorist attacks in London, including threats to Heathrow Airport. Since September 11, 2001, there had been 520 arrests. Sir John said "As the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have said, there is an inevitability that some attack will get through. My job is to make sure that does not happen."

He added that although London was on high alert especially since the Madrid bombing, there was no cause for panic and everyone should go about their normal lives.

Speaking to journalists at City Hall, he said the police and security services had dramatically increased their efforts to detect and foil terrorist plans for attacks on London and other British cities. In a reference to previous terrorist attacks by the IRA, Commissioner Stevens said "We have major experience over the past 32 years and we will take action."

Both the police commissioner and the London Mayor stressed that security was a matter for everyone, not just the police, and trains and airports were not the only targets. They said all forms of transport and places where people gather in large numbers were at some risk. "We are talking about buses, anything seen of suspicion in clubs. This is a general request to be alert" said Commissioner Stevens. He and the Mayor urged everyone to report suspicious packages, especially backpacks and other baggage left unattended at airports and bus and rail stations.

The press conference was called after it emerged that the Moroccan man being held for questioning about the Madrid atrocity had contacts in London. Commissioner Stevens said British police officers had gone to Madrid to check out any London connection. Spanish police believe their suspect, named as Jamal Zougam, was recruited by Islamic militants in 1998 and is also linked to the man alleged to have planned the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Ramzi Binalshibh who is currently detained in Camp Delta, Cuba.

*The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has said tourists should not be put off visiting Spain. British people made more than 13 million visits to Spain last year and half a million British citizens have homes in Spain. ABTA said that unless there was evidence that British visitors were being singled out for attack, travelers should consider Spain no greater risk than staying home. "We pick up far fewer concerns after a specific terrorist attack than we do when there is a generalized problem like the SARS outbreak or the Iraq war" said an ABTA spokesman.

*The UK Foreign Office says in its travel advice that most visits to Spain are trouble-free, and it is not advising people to avoid traveling to Spain because of the Madrid bombing. (E-Turbo News)





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