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RAF MILDENHALL, England — After being criticized for a perceived overreaction to the deadly London bombings two weeks ago, the U.S. Air Force in England was remaining calm in the wake of Thursday’s incidents, described at one point by police as “attempted explosions.”

At RAF Mildenhall, about 70 miles north of London, airmen went about their routines as news of the latest blasts spread. The base did not change its security level in the hours after the incidents, said Tech. Sgt. Cindy Dorfner of the base public affairs office.

Following the blasts on July 7 that killed 52 people and four suicide bombers and injured more than 700 people, the Air Force ordered its members not to go to London, even though city officials insisted that the city was safe. British media chastised the service for being so cautious. One London-based columnist referred to American airmen as “lilly-livered.”

RAF Lakenheath also was keeping its cool Thursday. Capt. Jason McCree of the public affairs office said there had been no change to the level of security, which has remained slightly elevated since the 2001 attacks in the United States.

“Security is something we’re always assessing,” McCree said.

Security levels currently in place at U.S. bases in the United Kingdom are undertaken when there is an “increased and more predictable threat of terrorist activity even though no particular target has been identified,” according to Defense Department guidelines.

At the London headquarters of the U.S. Navy in Europe, repeated phone calls went unanswered Thursday afternoon.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation,” read a statement issued Thursday by the U.S. European Command. “Though we’ve received no direct requests for assistance, we stand ready to assist our British allies in any way we can. We will announce any changes as they happen.”

Army Maj. Holly Silkman, a EUCOM spokeswoman, said the command “has received no reports of anybody [associated with the U.S. military] being unaccounted for.”

Two Air Force members on temporary duty from Florida to RAF Mildenhall said the bomb blasts would not deter them from going to London. In fact, they went to London the first day the travel ban was lifted after the blasts two weeks ago.

“It cost 27 pounds for the train ticket,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Orr, sipping on a beer at the Bird in Hand pub near RAF Mildenhall and watching coverage of Thursday’s incidents.

“It was probably the best 27 pounds I ever spent. If anything, you feel obligated. You should be in London.”

Master Sgt. Joe Bell said, “If something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. … You just press on.”

In Washington, the Pentagon’s internal protection service went to a higher state of alert at about 10 a.m. local time. Washington’s Metro transportation system followed suit.

At Heathrow Airport in London, additional security was evident as uniformed, armed officers patrolled the complex. If a piece of luggage was left sitting alone for more than a moment, security forces would ask whose it was. Staff in cafes would do the same.

But travelers remained calm. The one television set visible in one area of the terminal was on a sports channel even as Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the nation.

Andrew Gaminia, a 51-year-old traveler from Capetown, South Africa, was headed home after a trip that began before the first bombings.

After hearing news of Thursday’s incident, he got on a bus in Manchester and showed up five hours early for his flight, fearful of delays.

“I’m a bit scared,” he said. “It can happen anywhere in the world, but why should it happen?”

Marni McEntee contributed to this report from Heathrow Airport in London. Kevin Dougherty contributed from Darmstadt, Germany. Lisa Burgess contributed from Washington, D.C.


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