The UK was the first European country to face firsthand the harsh reality of home-grown terrorism after 9/11. A series of London bomb attacks known as 7/7 were carried out by four indigenous-born, English-speaking Muslim young men in July 2005. The investigation revealed that the actions of the suicide bombers were meticulously planned and coordinated. On the day of the attacks all four had travelled by car to Luton, Bedfordshire, then took a train to London were they were recorded on CCTV cameras arriving at King's Cross station at 08:30 a.m. local time.
The first three explosions detonated simultaneously at 08:50 am on underground trains outside Liverpool Street and Edgware Road stations and between King’s Cross and Russell Square. An hour later another blast hit a double-decker bus number 30 in Tavistock Square, nor far from King’s Cross. The attacks claimed the lives of 52 people and left 700 injured.
The bombers were soon identified as Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain and Germaine Lindsay. The first three being British-born sons of Pakistani immigrants, while the forth one was a convert Muslim born in Jamaica. Charles Clarke, a then-UK Home Secretary, described the attackers as "cleanskins", stating they were previously unknown to the authorities. The subsequent investigation labelled them as “ordinary British citizens”. Indeed, there seemed to be nothing suspicious in their biographies.
The alleged leader of the group Mohammad Sidique Khan, aged 30, lived in Leeds with his wife and a child. He worked as a learning mentor at a local primary school. A 22-year-old Shehzad Tanweer, also from Leeds, lived with his parents and worked in a fish and chip shop. The youngest of the bombers Hasib Hussain was only 18 and lived in Leeds with his brother and sister-in-law. Germaine Lindsay, aged 19, resided in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, with his pregnant wife and a little son.
Yet behind these “normal lives” was something the British special services had apparently missed. Just months before the bombings Mohammed Siddique Khan had visited Pakistan and was later found to have recorded a video message, in which he blamed British foreign policy for oppressing Muslims. The videotape was broadcasted by Al Jazeera in September 2005 and also featured a future al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. A year after the attacks Al Jazeera aired another video statement by Shehzad Tanweer. On both tapes the young men justified the terroristic attacks on the non-Muslim population of Britain and described themselves as “soldiers” of Allah.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who when the bombings occurred had been playing host to the G8 summit in Scotland, cut short his stay and flew back to head emergency meetings in London. The official tried to convince the public that the authorities will win the war on terror.
"The terrorists will not succeed. Today's bombings will not weaken in any way our resolve to uphold the most deeply held principles of our societies and to defeat those who would impose their fanaticism and extremism on all of us. We shall prevail and they shall not."
However, just two weeks after the tragedy there were four more attempted bombings in London. Fortunately, none of the devices went off. But the immediate consequences of the first attack led to another deadly incident, this time caused by the police. They shot dead a man who was mistaken for one of the bombers. The incident sparked a heated debate on whether police should be given broader powers in the face of a terrorist threat.
The overall effects of the attacks both on everyday life and on the political climate in Britain have been far-reaching. They forced a wave of change in UK counterterrorism policy, which was previously focused on foreign threats. Now the police investigations and secret services' surveillance programs mostly target the home-grown radicalized Muslim youth. This in turn led to the rise of Islamophobia. The 2013 study by academics at Teeside University showed that half of the country’s mosques and Islamic centers, which amount to 700, have been attacked since 2001. The Islamic Human Rights Commission has also reported widespread cases of cyber threats, physical attacks and arson against British Muslims. Other consequences of the 2005 bombings were ambiguous changes to the counter-terrorism legislation. The authorities investigating potential extremist threats are given legitimate rights to invade the privacy and freedom of British citizens, many of whom prove to be innocent. Nevertheless, Britain remains appallingly vulnerable in terms of national security. The Global Terrorism Index issued in 2012 named the UK as the third most dangerous Western European state.