LONDON — The level of terrorist threat was raised to "critical" in the U.K. Saturday, meaning an attack is expected imminently. The move followed an incident in Glasgow Airport in Scotland, during which a car was driven into a door of the check-in area of the terminal building before catching fire on impact, and the discovery of two unexploded car bombs here Friday. Police have said they believe the incidents are linked.
Security has been stepped up in airports and London's police presence has been reinforced, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Police Saturday.
Oxford Street and Carnaby Street were busy Sunday afternoon, whereas Chelsea was perhaps more subdued than usual. However, there didn't seem to be a perceptible alteration in shoppers' moods.
Trading started out quiet in the capital Saturday, possibly hampered by rain, but picked up later in the afternoon, according to Jace Tyrrell, head of marketing and communications at the New West End Company, a business partnership representing the interests of Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street.
"It's too early to say [if the car bombs] will have long-term impact," he said, adding it'll take up to two months to know if tourist traffic will be hit. "It won't be one of the best Saturdays," he said. "The rain didn't help at all."
Walking around central London on Saturday, it seemed life — and shopping — continued more or less as normal.
London's Gay Pride parade went ahead as planned and shoppers searched out bargains in stores on Regent Street, close to where the first car carrying explosives was found in front of a club on Haymarket in the early hours of Friday morning. A second car bomb was found Friday afternoon, leading to Park Lane being closed to traffic for a time.
On Saturday afternoon, stores on Regent Street confirmed the status quo, with teens scouring bargain rails in Zara and Mango while bored boyfriends waited in doorways. Burberry also seemed to be doing a brisk trade at its store there. Topshop's flagship at Oxford Circus was busy, with one changing room line counting about 20 shoppers at one point."It was a little quieter than usual but not significantly," said a Topshop spokeswoman Saturday evening, adding no appointments made with Topshop style advisors, or personal shoppers, were canceled.
Selfridges department store on Oxford Street was also bustling — with its Gucci and Fendi accessory shop-in-shops drawing particular attention.
The discovery of the car bombs here — which the Metropolitan Police said could have caused significant injury or loss of life — came just over a week from the second anniversary of the July 7 bombings, which killed 52 people. Last August, U.K. airports were thrown into disarray when an alleged terrorist plot to blow up planes flying from the U.K. to the U.S. came to light.
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