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.