London alert extended to pubs and buses

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The Independent Online

Buses, nightclubs, and pubs in London are among possible targets for a terrorist attack, the head of the Metropolitan Police warned yesterday.

Buses, nightclubs, and pubs in London are among possible targets for a terrorist attack, the head of the Metropolitan Police warned yesterday.

Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said there was an "inevitability" about a terror assault on the capital and called for extra vigilance from the public.

His fears were echoed by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, who said it would be "miraculous" if the capital escaped attack.

Sir John warned that terrorists would not necessarily try to copy the tactics used last Thursday in the Madrid bombings, in which explosives were placed on rush-hour trains killing at least 200 people and injuring 1,500.

He said: "We are not just talking about the Tube and the rail system. We are talking about London in general. "We are talking about buses, nightclubs, pubs and roads. We know from experience in Bali that al-Qa'ida attack clubs. There is a need for everyone to be alert."

New firefighting teams are being established to deal with possible terrorist bombings or chemical attacks. The number of fire rescue units, which have specialist breathing equipment and are used to help people trapped under buildings, is being increased from five to 10 in the next year. And Scotland Yard is preparing to run a series of exercises to test the emergency services' response to different types of terrorism.

The Met is also recruiting an extra 100 officers to its anti-terrorist and special branches in addition to the 680 brought in since the 11 September attacks. Sir John said the police and the security services were "working three times harder than ever" to foil any terrorist plot. "Since 11 September," he said, "there have been 520 arrests, half have been charged with an offence and there are 90 about to go through to court.

"We do know we have actually stopped terrorist attacks happening in London but, as the Prime Minister and Home Secretary said, there is an inevitability some sort of attack will get through but my job is to make sure it does not happen." He urged the public not to panic and to go about their normal lives, adding: "A major catastrophe in London will not be easy to handle. None of them are but we have major experience over the last 32 years and we will take action."

He continued: "If terrorists do get through and commit an offence, we must make sure we arrest them and deal with them as soon as possible."

Three officers from the Met's anti-terrorist branch have travelled to Madrid to gather intelligence on the bombing.

Sir John said: "We are looking to see if there is specific things we can learn from Madrid in terms of who was involved, does it change our tactics and those things we have learnt we will put into force."

Mr Livingstone added: "It would be miraculous if, with all the terrorist resources arranged against us, if terrorists did not get through, and given that some are prepared to give their own lives, it would be inconceivable that someone does not get through to London."