The confirmed death toll from yesterday’s coordinated bomb attacks in London has risen to at least 50–making it the deadliest attack in London since the Second World War. More than 700 people were injured in the attacks. A massive intelligence investigation is now under way and evidence is emerging that the attacks may have been carried out using timing devices, raising comparisons to the Madrid bombings. A previously unknown group calling itself the Secret Organization Group of al-Qaeda of Jihad Organisation in Europe claimed to be behind the attacks. In a statement posted on an Islamist website, the group said the attacks were "in revenge of the massacres that Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan." We will have much more on this in just a few moments.
Back here in the US, the Department of Homeland Security has raised the nation’s security level for subways, buses and commuter trains to code orange for mass transit. From New York to San Francisco, stepped-up safeguards included bomb-sniffing dogs, increased video surveillance and more police at train and bus stations. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that authorities had no evidence of a specific, credible threat against the United States.
During their coverage of the breaking news events yesterday, several FOX News hosts or reporters made comments that are raising some eyebrows. The network’s Washington Managing Editor Brit Hume told host Shepard Smith, that when he heard about the London bombings, he saw it as an investment opportunity:
“I mean, my first thought when I heard — just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, "Hmmm, time to buy." Others may have thought that as well."
Meanwhile, one of the network’s anchors, Brian Kilmeade, said the attacks worked to the Western world’s advantage and he blasted the international gathering at the G8 for focusing on global warming and African aid instead of terrorism. Here is some of what he said right after Tony Blair spoke yesterday. This is FOX anchor Brian Kilmeade talking to another FOX’s Paul Varney:
KILMEADE: And that was the first time since 9-11 when they should know, and they do know now, that terrorism should be Number 1. But it’s important for them all to be together. I think that works to our advantage, in the Western world’s advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened."
VARNEY: It puts the Number 1 issue right back on the front burner right at the point where all these world leaders are meeting. It takes global warming off the front burner. It takes African aid off the front burner. It sticks terrorism and the fight on the war on terror, right up front all over again.
FOX News hosts Brian Kilmeade and Paul Varney, speaking yesterday on FOX. Thanks to Media Matters for those clips.
Egyptian Diplomat Executed, Cairo Closes Mission
Egypt says it is temporarily shutting down its diplomatic mission in Iraq and has recalled its staff to Cairo, after a militant group claimed to have killed Egypt’s top envoy in Baghdad. Cairo also asked the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to urgently address the issue of protecting diplomats in Iraq. A group identifying itself as Al-Qaida in Iraq said in a posting on a web forum that it killed the Egyptian ambassador, who was kidnapped from a Baghdad street late Saturday only weeks after he took up his post in the Iraqi capital. It posted a short video of the diplomat being questioned, but did not show his slaying.
The top lawyer for deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has quit the Jordan-based legal team, saying Thursday some of the team’s US members were trying to control the defense and tone down his criticism of the U.S. occupation and the current Iraqi regime. The lawyer has often expressed support for Iraqi resistance. Among the Americans on the team are former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark. The lawyer charged that Clark and another American lawyer helping defend Saddam, were "upset with my statements and have often asked me to refrain from criticizing the American occupation of Iraq and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government." Saddam’s legal team includes 1,500 volunteers and at least 22 lead lawyers who come from several countries, including the United States, France, Jordan, Iraq and Libya. No date has been set for Saddam’s trial.
Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who landed on the cover of Time magazine after blowing the whistle on the nation’s pre 9/11 security lapses, announced this week that she is running for congress against two-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline in Minnesota. Rowley was a strong opponent of the invasion of Iraq. Rowley said, "We must reclaim a foreign policy ethic that restores America as first among equals and shakes off this terribly distorted image of America as the Lone Ranger, shooting from the hip."
A judge in Venezuela has ruled that an opposition figure who was received by President Bush will go on trial with three colleagues accused of conspiring to overthrow the government using U.S. funds. Maria Corina Machado and three other members of her Sumate group, which helped organize a referendum against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nearly a year ago, are being charged with "conspiracy to change Venezuela’s republican system." Chavez has called Machado a traitor after her Sumate group received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. The judge ruled that the 3 would remain free until the trial took place. Machado met Bush at the White House on May 31.
The NATO Alliance announced that it has started a three-month airlift of African peacekeepers into Sudan’s devastated Darfur region. In a statement, NATO said that the operation began with the deployment of Nigerian troops into the region last week. It said the airlift would continue into September. NATO and the European Union agreed last month to help fly some 5,000 troops from African Union nations into Darfur to strengthen the existing monitoring force of 2,700 troops.
A lawyer for a Canadian believed to be among the youngest prisoners at the Guantanamo Prison Camp argued Thursday that the teenager should not be forced to undergo further interrogation by Canadian authorities. The prisoner is now 18 and was captured in 2002. He is accused of killing an American medic in Afghanistan. A lawyer for the Canadian government said he has provided useful information and Canadian investigators should be allowed to continue questioning him.
Attorneys for Lynndie England, the Army private who became the public face of prisoner abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, said Thursday that she would plead not guilty when the Army reopens her court-martial later this summer on charges of mistreating Iraqi prisoners. Earlier this year, the 22-year-old had agreed to plead guilty to several charges in return for reduced prison time. But an Army judge threw out her plea in May, saying the confession she had worked out with Army prosecutors was not believable.