LONDON (BP)–Invoking the name of the Prophet Mohammad, a terrorist group calling itself the “Secret Organization Group of Al Qaeda of Jihad in Europe” claimed responsibility for a series of bomb blasts that rocked London’s transportation system at the height of rush hour July 7.
“Nation of Islam and Arab nation: Rejoice for it is time to take revenge against the British Zionist Crusader government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the previously unknown group said in a statement. “The heroic mujahadeen have carried out a blessed raid in London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern and western quarters.”
The statement, which was posted on an Islamic website soon after the attacks, could not be verified immediately.
London police reported up to seven near-simultaneous bomb blasts at four separate sites, three in the city’s subway system and one a packed double-decker bus, according to The Times newspaper in London. While assessments were still being made, at least 37 were reported dead and 700 were injured.
The attacks came one day after London was chosen as the site of the 2012 Olympics and on the same day as the Group of Eight summit began at the Gleneagles Hotel near Edinburgh, Scotland. British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the attacks “barbaric” and restated his resolve to fight terrorism worldwide.
“It’s important … that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world,” Blair told reporters at Gleneagles before heading back to London.
“Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations throughout the world,” he added.
President Bush, who was briefed on the attacks along with Blair at the summit, told reporters he appreciates the prime minister’s “steadfast determination and his strength.” Bush also expressed regret that on a day when world leaders were gathered to discuss alleviating poverty, combating AIDS and improving the environment, terrorists would choose to murder innocent people.
“The contrast couldn’t be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill — those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks,” Bush said.
The president was in touch with U.S. security personnel but planned to remain at Gleneagles for the summit. He said again that the “war on terror goes on” and the resolve of the leaders gathered in Scotland was the same as his, which is not to yield to the terrorists but to bring them to justice.
“We will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate,” Bush said.
The Group of Eight, which includes the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, released a statement on the attacks, which Blair read before leaving Gleneagles.
“We condemn utterly these barbaric attacks. We send our profound condolences to the victims and their families,” the statement said. “All of our countries have suffered from the impact of terrorism … We will not allow violence to change our societies or our values, nor will we allow it to stop the work of this summit … We shall prevail and they shall not.”
Across London, churches and other places of worship, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, were being opened to the public for prayer. Vigils were scheduled for later in the day, and clergy members were taking to the streets to assist those traumatized by the attacks, The Times reported.
R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., said in remarks released to Baptist Press that if Al Qaeda is indeed responsible for the terrorist attacks in London, it further demonstrates “how errant their religion is.”
“How can people who claim to follow the one god demonstrate their devotion to him through slaughter and death?” he said. “… This incident should increase afresh the passion and zeal of Christians, and Baptists especially, to share the Good News of God’s love as revealed in John 3:16. How thankful all believers in the true God of the Bible should be that God’s Word was enfleshed, crucified and risen so that no one else’s blood needs to be shed to insure a home in heaven for all who believe.
“As a former resident of that great city, my sympathy, love and compassion, along the entire Midwestern community, is extended to the residents, citizens and all who have suffered in this regrettable act,” Roberts added. “Our thoughts and continued prayers are with the victims and their families.”
Michael McMullen, a church history professor at Midwestern, was born in England, and his mother and four siblings still live there. He told Baptist Press he communicated with his relatives shortly after the attacks, and though they were shocked by the tragedy, they were not surprised because warnings of terrorism had been ongoing for some time. Even so, the reality of the occurrence is heavy.
“When I heard of the terrorist bombings as I drove into work at the seminary, I felt physically sick,” McMullen said. “This act reminded me just how much the war on terrorism really is a war of good against evil, of courage against cowardice.
“… In light of what has happened, we must be encouraged all the more to pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace to be extended and for us to be His willing instruments to bring the Gospel to such a needy and lost world,” he added.
Samuel Shahid, professor of Islamic studies at Southwestern, said the London attacks illustrate the desire of radical Islamists to rule to the world.
“The goal of these people, especially if it is al Qaeda, is to fight and kill indiscriminately,” he said. “It does not matter to them whether or not they kill civilians. They are fighting against those who are not supporting Islam, all of the people in what is called the ‘dar al harb,’ or the abode of war.”
Shahid said the terrorists want to bring the world into “dar al Islam,” or a global Islamic state.
“I am not talking about all Muslims, but the radical extremists,” he said.
With reporting by Cory Miller & Gregory Tomlin.