Jim Sciutto, a foreign correspondent for ABC News, examines the sources and repercussions of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, the new face of terrorism and options for the future.
From firsthand experience and intimate interviews, Sciutto presents an engrossing narrative of terrifying events and inspiring hope.
For five years, I've lived in Notting Hill— home to fashion boutiques, gourmet delicatessens, Park Avenue rents, and half a dozen guys planning for martyrdom. My neighbors are terrorists. I found out the first time in July 2005. After attempting and failing to blow themselves up on the London subway, three young British Muslims were captured in an apartment just down the street from me and right around the corner from the Travel Book Shop, where Hugh Grant's character worked in the movie Notting Hill. In perfect Notting Hill style, I'd sped by their place on my Vespa coming back from the gym just before the police swooped in. When the ABC desk called me with the news, I went to the scene still wearing my sneakers and sweats.
The story quickly burst the posh, hip, and safe bubble I had created for myself in London. Through all the wars and terror attacks overseas, I had imagined my neighborhood as a terror-free zone. Standing there on the corner of Lancaster and Portobello Roads that morning, I could see my favorite place for brunch, my favorite Italian restaurant, and my gym. It was like finding out that the next nineteen hijackers were living in the West Village.
London's collective sense of security had already been shattered two weeks earlier, when four other British men detonated bombs on three subway trains and a bus across the capital. Those attackers had been successful, killing ?fty-two people and themselves. As an American, I marveled at Britain's calm. London was shocked but not frozen. The buses and trains started running again almost immediately. Friends kept their dinner dates that night. Londoners proudly recalled the Second World War: We survived the blitz, we can survive this. But this time the threat came from home. Britain's own people were killing their fellow citizens. And these were good British boys, with jobs, families, favorite soccer teams, and unmistakably British accents.
There would be other chilling reminders of this threat every few months. In August 2006, a plot was uncovered in Waltham Forest, East London, to blow up half a dozen airliners over the Atlantic using chemicals carried on board in soda bottles. If the alleged planners had been successful, they would have killed thousands: a 9/11 over the sea. In February 2007, Scotland Yard foiled a plan in Birmingham to kidnap and behead British Muslim soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Several newspapers shared a single headline for the story: baghdad comes to birmingham. Each plot seemed more sinister than the last. In July 2007, two men tried to detonate car bombs outside two London nightclubs. When the bombs failed, they drove ten hours to Scotland to set themselves on ?re outside the departure terminal at Glasgow International Airport. Like the Birmingham suspects, they had intended to bring Iraqi-like violence home to the British people. But this conspiracy had a new twist: the attackers were doctors. And they were my neighbors as well. Two of them had addresses just down the street from me, again, in idyllic Notting Hill.