Terror threat raised after London bomb attack injures at least 29

PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Britain raised its threat level to maximum on Friday (Sep 15) and announced troops would be deployed to key sites after a bomb detonated on a packed London Underground train, injuring at least 29 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

The explosion - Britain's fifth terror attack in six months - sparked a "wall of fire" that left passengers with burns and caused a stampede of panicking people in which some were trampled.

Twelve hours after the blast at Parsons Green station in southwest London, Prime Minister Theresa May announced the national threat level would be raised to "critical", meaning another attack may be imminent.

She said military personnel would take over guard duty at certain closed "protected sites", freeing up 1,000 police officers to be deployed on the transport network and on streets across Britain.

The country was last on critical alert after the bombing at a concert in Manchester in May, which was also claimed by the IS group.

In a statement on Friday, IS said a "detachment" had carried out Friday's attack in London.

Blast hits underground train in west London: Reports

  • Armed police rushed to an incident at a London underground station on Friday with local media reporting there had been an explosion on a packed rush-hour commuter train.
  • Personal belongings and a bucket with an item on fire inside it, are seen on the floor of an underground train carriage at Parsons Green station in West London.
  • Emergency services said they had been called to reports of an incident on a train at Parsons Green station in West London at 8.20 a.m. (0720 GMT) but had no further details of what had happened.
  • The Metro newspaper reported that passengers had suffered facial burns from a blast and others had been hurt in a subsequent stampede. "I was on second carriage from the back. I just heard a kind of whoosh. I looked up and saw the whole carriage engulfed in flames making its way towards me," a man who was on the train told Reuters.
  • Outside the station, a woman was sitting on a pavement with a bandage around her leg, while armed police patrolled. A Reuters witness saw a woman being carried off on a stretcher with her legs covered in a foil blanket.
  • "We are aware of an incident at #ParsonsGreen tube station. Officers are in attendance," London police said on Twitter."We would advise people to avoid the area."
  • An unverified picture circulating on social media showed a white bucket in a supermarket freezer bag with what appeared to be wires coming out of the top on the floor of one train carriage.
  • Police said they were aware of reports on social media and said they would release facts regarding the incident once they could be sure of their accuracy.
  • A Reuters witness could see a bomb disposal unit at the scene while the fire brigade said it had sent six engines and 50 firefighters. London Ambulance said it had sent "multiple resources" including its hazardous area response team to the scene.
  • "Our initial priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries," it said.
  • Transport for London said on Twitter there was no service on the western part of the District Line which runs through Parsons Green.
  • Britain has suffered four attacks blamed on terrorists so far this year which killed 36 people. In 2005, 52 people were killed when four British Islamists carried out suicide bomb attacks on three London underground trains and a bus.

No-one has yet been arrested over the bombing, but anti-terrorism police chief Mark Rowley said the investigation was making "really good progress".

"We're chasing down suspects," he told reporters. "Somebody has planted this improvised explosive device on the Tube. We have to be open-minded at this stage about him and potential associates."

Rowley earlier said most of the injuries were due to "flash burns", while others were wounded as passengers ran out of the station in panic.

A local resident, Charlie Craven, who was on his way to the station at the time of the attack, said he heard a "massive bang". "I saw an orange sort of fireball encompassing the whole Tube coming towards you," he told AFP.

Witness Lauren Hubbard described it as "a wall of fire".

Twitter user @Rrigs posted pictures of a white bucket smouldering on the train and described how a "fireball flew down carriage and we just jumped out open door".

The bucket, which was inside a frozen food bag from the budget supermarket chain Lidl, looked like the type used by builders and there appeared to be cables coming out of it.

'UNHELPFUL SPECULATION'

US President Donald Trump said that "loser terrorists" were behind the attack, adding that they were already "in the sights" of British police.

London's Metropolitan Police dismissed the tweet as "unhelpful speculation", while May also rebuked him.

"I never think it's helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation," she said, speaking after an emergency meeting of senior ministers.

May said the device was "clearly intended to cause significant harm," condemning it as a "cowardly attack".

Speaking on Friday evening, Rowley said the remnants of the bomb were being examined by forensic scientists.

British media reported that it had timer but failed to detonate fully.

Otso Iho, a senior analyst at Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said the attack showed a "continued high intent but low capability" in the terrorism threat in Britain.

Hans Michels, a professor of chemical engineering at Imperial College, said the flash flame "suggests that the explosion was only partly successful". "Much of the bucket still seems to be intact and there appear to be no victims with lethal impact wounds," he said.

ARMED POLICE ON PATROL

The London Ambulance Service said none of the 29 victims treated in hospital were in a serious life-threatening condition, and eight have since been released.

Louis Hather, 21, had been travelling to work and was three carriages down from where the explosion took place. "I could smell the burning. Like when you burn plastic," he told AFP.

He was trampled on as passengers stampeded out of the station and his leg was badly cut and bruised.

Sally Faulding, a 51-year-old teacher, said: "People were falling over each other."

Richard Aylmer-Hall, 52, told the Press Association: "There was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming."

The area around Parsons Green station - a quiet and wealthy residential district, filled with chic cafes - was evacuated for most of the day.

Local residents and businesses rallied together to offer tea, phone charging points, and the use of their toilets to people unable to get home.

Four previous attacks in London and Manchester this year claimed the lives of 35 people.

Three of those attacks involved a vehicle ploughing into pedestrians.

The other attack was a bombing in May at a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester which killed 22 people, including several children.

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