'Urgent review' for US Air Force ban on London trips

'Urgent review' for US Air Force ban on London trips

By Caroline Gammell, PA

Published: 12 July 2005

A US decision to ban all American servicemen and women from entering London following last week's terror attacks is being "urgently reviewed", Defence Secretary John Reid said today.

Around 10,000 personnel from the US Air Force based at two RAF stations in Suffolk were given the order after the bombs brought the capital to a standstill on Thursday.

The directive was considered by the US authorities to be the most effective measure to protect their troops.

But Mr Reid said that decision was being reconsidered and he insisted the US government had offered its full support.

"You will not be surprised to know that my people have been in touch already with the American embassy," he said in a GMTV interview.

"I understand this is being urgently reviewed. It was a local decision taken locally. It was a temporary measure in the immediate aftermath of last Thursday's bombings and this statement was made last Friday."

Mr Reid said that - at that stage - no one knew the size of the attack or the potential damage caused.

But in a defence of the US, he said: "From the first moments of this, the Americans have been unstinting in their support."

The Defence Secretary said help had been offered from the FBI and numerous other security agencies.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld rang up immediately after the attacks to see if the US could assist, he added.

On Thursday, the US servicemen and women were told not to go within the M25 until further notice, except on official business.

The families of these personnel have also been encouraged to follow the same guidelines.

Matt Tulis, a spokesman at RAF Mildenhall, said: "We are concerned about the safety of our folks and are trying to do what we can to protect them.

"This is the best course of action right now."

Mr Tulis said the instruction was also issued to give the British authorities and officials the chance to "do their job" in the aftermath of the atrocity.

He said he did not know how long the order would be in place but added: "I can't see it being a permanent thing."

The instruction involved around 5,000 servicemen based at RAF Mildenhall and a further 5,000 based at RAF Lakenheath.

Staff Sergeant Jeff Hamm, at RAF Lakenheath, said: "Obviously it is in the interests of the air force to ensure its personnel are as vigilant and as safe as possible."

Defending the decision to stay away, he said: "While it's important for some to carry on business as usual, the interests in keeping the air force out of harm's way until we have a bit more knowledge about about what has happened is greater than the need to send them back into the city."

The directive flies in the face of the message being conveyed by police and city chiefs in the US and the UK who have been publicly taking the Underground.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said London was "open for business" as he purposefully took the Tube from King's Cross yesterday.

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