UK Politics

Ken Livingstone defends Boston bombing remarks

Ken Livingstone
Image caption Ken Livingstone said his comments had not been made specifically about the Boston bombings

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has defended comments he made over the Boston Marathon bombings.

He told the Iranian satellite channel Press TV that "squalid intervention" by Western governments fuelled anger such as that seen in the recent attack.

The Conservatives called the remarks "insensitive and thoughtless" and asked him to apologise.

But Labour's Mr Livingstone said his remarks were not a "specific" commentary on the Boston bombings.

Three people were killed and more than 260 injured in the explosions near the finishing line of the marathon on 15 April.

Ethnic Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are suspected of carrying out the attack. Tamerlan later died during a police chase and Dzhokhar is in custody.

'Collaborated'

Speaking on Press TV, funded by the Iranian government, Mr Livingstone said: "Very often, people get incredibly angry about injustices that they see.

"They would have been reading about the torture at Guantanamo Bay, at the Bagram airbase [in Afghanistan]. They would have read stuff about how, I think, it is 54 different countries secretly collaborated with America for this rendition - people being snatched off streets, taken to be tortured, because the Bush regime believed that they were all potential terrorists."

Mr Livingstone, mayor from 2000 to 2008, added: "There was such ignorance in the Bush White House about Islam and about the history of so many disputes that exist in the Middle East. People get angry. They lash out.

"It's the whole squalid intervention that has disfigured the record of the Western democracies. I think this fuels the anger of the young men, who, as we saw in Boston, went out, and, out of anger and demand for revenge, claimed lives in the West."

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "These are irresponsible, insensitive and thoughtless comments which show why Ken Livingstone is not fit to hold public office. He should unreservedly apologise for the distress he has caused."

But Mr Livingstone, who is a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, told the BBC his remarks - made on 26 April - had not been a specific commentary on the events in Boston, as much was yet to be discovered about the background and motivations of the alleged bombers.

He added that they had been a broader explanation of what has motivated terrorists over several decades to carry out attacks on the West and have a particular dislike for America

Mr Livingstone also said what had been learned about the motivations of the terrorists who carried out the 2005 London bombings had informed his answer.