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Authorities Continue Probe into London Blasts

JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jennifer Ludden.

British police today continued their investigation into Thursday's terrorist attacks in London. They now put the number killed at 49, but expect the death toll to rise as they sift through debris. NPR's Ivan Watson reports from London.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

Two days into the investigation, British police abruptly revised the chronology of the terror attacks. At a press conference today, Deputy Police Commissioner Brian Paddock announced the three subway bombs all exploded nearly simultaneously at 8:50 AM on Thursday.

Mr. BRIAN PADDOCK (Deputy Police Commissioner): A slightly different picture is emerging. It would appear now that all three bombs on the London underground system actually exploded within seconds of each other.

WATSON: Up until today, authorities here said the underground bombs exploded over a half-hour period. Paddock added that some investigators knew all along that this earlier version of events was wrong.

Mr. PADDOCK: The anti-terrorist branch were well aware of the simultaneous explosion of these devices.

WATSON: But Paddock did not fully explain the reason for the conflicting accounts. Police say each of the subway bombs consisted of less than 10 pounds of explosives that were probably not homemade. They said the devices could have been detonated by timers or by suicide bombers with synchronized watches. Police are also investigating a fourth bomb that exploded on a double-decker bus nearly an hour after the subway bombs. Richard Jones stepped off that bus shortly before the explosion. In an interview with the BBC, Jones said he suspected he had seen a suspicious male passenger repeatedly reaching into a bag on the crowded bus.

Mr. RICHARD JONES: His behavior was strange because the bus was so tightly packed. He was having to move people out to get down his bag. It wasn't an easy maneuver for him, which was why he kept encroaching on me.

WATSON: Police had not ruled out the possibility that a bomber is mixed in with the 13 bodies they have recovered from the scene of the bus attack. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter says rescue workers are struggling to recover an unknown number of corpses still buried in the rubble of one of the deepest subway tunnels.

Mr. ANDY TROTTER (Deputy Chief Constable): It is extremely hot, extremely dusty and quite dangerous down there. When I spoke to the officers this morning, they said they're going to be working throughout today into tonight. It may go beyond that.

WATSON: While the investigation and grim recovery of bodies continues, many Londoners seem to have returned for the most part to their normal lives. Just a few blocks from the site of two of the terrorist attacks, a street fair was under way today where locals drank beer and danced outside to the music of a reggae band. Ivan Watson, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ivan Watson
Ivan Watson is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he has served as one of NPR's foreign "firemen," shuttling to and from hotspots around the Middle East and Central Asia.