Nearly five weeks after four suicide bombers attacked the British capital, killing themselves and 52 others, the City of London's police chief James Hart said there was no specific intelligence about a forthcoming attack but insisted the district was at risk.
"We are vulnerable, there are people out there who wish us harm and we should be aware of that," Hart told The Associated Press. "If you hit the financial center of the United Kingdom, it's a high-profile thing to do."
Asked if it was a question of when the financial district would be struck, rather than if, Hart replied: "Yes, I don't doubt that at all."
Known as the City, London's business quarter houses hundreds of banks, insurance companies, law firms and other institutions — including the London Stock Exchange and the Bank of England. It is a leading international center for trading in metals, oil and other commodities.
Aldgate subway station, one of the targets in the July 7 bombings, lies on the eastern edge of the City, a dense network of narrow streets dotted with skyscrapers. The tiny district has its own police force — distinct from the Metropolitan Police which operates in the rest of the capital — and officers beefed up security there in the 1990s after a string of IRA bombs.
"We are always vulnerable as a financial center, as we have been for the last three decades," Hart said.
Hart also said that "most successful terrorist operatives pre-survey their targets." Asked if this had happened in the City, he answered: "It has already occurred," but added that officers had disrupted "hostile surveillance."
He refused to say whether officers had arrested anyone as a result of these operations, or give further details.
Hart said his officers were also involved in training people working in the City — including company security guards and receptionists — to look for suspicious behavior.