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As Britain Mourns, Investigations into Bombings Proceed


The British people mourned today and, while prayers and hymns filled the great cathedrals of major cities and modest churches of neighborhoods, towns and villages, emergency workers picked through debris deep in London's Underground looking for more victims of Thursday's terrorist bombings. NPR's Jim Zarroli joins us now from London.

Jim, what's the latest officials are saying about the investigation into the bombings?

JIM ZARROLI reporting:

Well, there was another police briefing here this afternoon. They've been having them on a fairly regular basis. There wasn't a lot of new information. One of the sort of more tantalizing bits of information that emerged was that the police have arrested three men. They arrested them at Heathrow Airport this morning.

Now this came out because Brian Paddock of Scotland Yard was asked by a reporter why there haven't been any suspects named. He said there have actually been thr--there were these three men arrested. But then he went on to very explicitly say it would be pure speculation to suggest that these men were in any way linked to the crime. They're being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which simply gives police very broad powers in investigating terrorism. So it--I mean, it's reasonable to think they simply have some information about the crimes without them, you know, directly being involved. But we don't know; the police aren't saying.

The investigation is--the police are being assisted by senior police officials from all over the world, from the United States, from France, from Italy, Turkey, and this is because intelligence officials say they've learned in the past that when they sort of share leads with officials from other countries that the investigation just works better. So it's really proceeding at a number of levels.

KAST: What are officials saying about the recovery effort at the bombing sites?

ZARROLI: The recovery effort is basically finished, with the important exception of the area of King's Cross Station. This was the site on the Piccadilly line that the police have had so much trouble reaching because it's so far underground. It's in sort of a very narrow space, very hot. Police have had to proceed very slowly. This was a crowded subway car at rush hour. Nobody really knows how many people were really on board, so until they can get down there and really complete the recovery effort, they can't say what the final death toll is.

So far, police have confirmed 49 deaths. They're sticking to that. But they also say that there are as many as 30 more people who are unaccounted for.

KAST: And, Jim, what's the mood like in London today?

ZARROLI: Well, it's interesting. I think it's almost as if there are two Londons today. The attacks--the memory of the attacks is still very raw. Everywhere you go, people are talking about it. It's not hard to get people into conversation, sort of speculating about, you know, what happened, who did it, why, talking about the recovery effort at King's Cross Station.

The newspapers are filled with really dramatic stories about people, you know, who almost got on the bus but missed it, heroic stories about a police officer who commandeered a bus after the bombings to take a whole bunch of people to the hospital. So it's on everybody's mind. There was a requiem Mass for the victims at Westminster Cathedral this morning.

On the other hand, in a lot of ways, things look very normal. I went through the West End last night. I took a long walk. The streets, the bars, the restaurants are packed with people just out having fun, drinking, going to plays. This has been a beautiful day. They've been marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. So, you know, you'll walk through the park and you see all these elderly men with medals on their chests and women wearing big hats with flowers on them, heading off to ceremonies. So life goes on.

KAST: And there was a scare in Birmingham last night...


KAST: ...hundreds of bars and clubs evacuated. What prompted that?

ZARROLI: Well, yeah, police evacuated about 20,000 people in the entertainment district, the central part of the city. Well, Birmingham is located about a hour and a half northwest of London. The police carried out some controlled explosions on a bus, but they didn't find anything, no bombs. Police say they had very credible information about specific times and places, about a threat. There's been a fair amount of second-guessing this morning about whether the police chief overreacted. But, you know, I think--if you remember the Turkey bombings of 2003, there were actually two rounds of bombings, and I think police are sort of worried here. They're waiting for the second shoe to drop, as it were.

KAST: NPR's Jim Zarroli in London. Thank you very much, Jim.

ZARROLI: You're welcome, Sheilah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

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