Video: Who was responsible for the attacks?

By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/7/2005 7:45:53 PM ET 2005-07-07T23:45:53

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Ambassador to the U.S. David Manning appeared at the British Embassy in Washington on Thursday as partners in the war on terror.

"We have no better friend and ally in the struggle against terrorism than Great Britain," said Rice.

Al-Qaida has targeted both countries, but was Thursday's attack the work of Osama bin Laden or his imitators?

Over the last 18 months, al-Qaida or its sympathizers have attacked European subways three times: In Moscow last year, Madrid in March 2004 and now London. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Madrid and London attacks may involve the same Moroccan suspect.

Experts say subways are easy targets.

"A high volume of people have to move quickly, and as a result you can't have the layered security in place like you do at airports," says Roger Cressey, an NBC terrorism analyst and former CIA official. "That makes it very difficult to defend."

In fact, al-Qaida cased subway systems in the United States both before and after 9/11. But Thursday's attacks, while coordinated, did not have other al-Qaida trademarks.

"As terrible as they were, the attacks were not as spectacular as the 9/11 attacks," says Bill Harlow, also an NBC terrorism analyst and former CIA official. "There weren't as many of them as there were in some other attacks."

Thursday night, U.S. officials tell NBC News they had shared a number of intelligence reports in recent months that al-Qaida wanted to copy the Madrid attacks.

Why Thursday?

British officials believe the attack was timed to disrupt the start of the G-8 summit in Scotland.

Why London?

London has been a hotbed of al-Qaida sympathizers. Many, like "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, were recruited in a local mosque. Its former leader went on trial July 5 for inciting attacks on non-Muslims.

"These communities can provide convenient cover," says Steven Simon, a terror expert with the Rand Corp.

Thursday night, in a gesture of solidarity, the U.S. State Department raised the Union Jack for the first time.

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