Tube bomb at­tack sparks ter­ror hunt

Knife­man at­tacks sol­dier in Paris

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JACQUELIN MAGNAY LONDON

A huge counter-ter­ror op­er­a­tion was un­der way in London last af­ter a chem­i­cal bomb ex­ploded on a packed Tube train.

Po­lice be­lieve the bomb, which re­port­edly was fit­ted with a timer, may have mal­func­tioned, re­sult­ing in 22 peo­ple be­ing in­jured, many of them with “flash burns”, but avoid­ing a huge death toll. Many of the in­jured were hurt jump­ing from the train in panic.

The bomb, com­prised of chem­i­cals in a builder’s bucket and hid­den inside a Lidl gro­cery bag, ex­ploded at 8.20am (5.20pm AEST) dur­ing the morn­ing rush.

Wit­nesses de­scribed a flash and a ball of fire that spread down the Tube car­riage as the train was pulling into Par­sons Green, hav­ing left Wim­ble­don for cen­tral London.

The at­tack had the hall­marks of the chem­i­cal bomb plot un- cov­ered by Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice this year, in which Bar­bie bomb-plot ac­cused Khaled Khayat and Mah­moud Khayat are also al­leged to have planned to at­tack Syd­ney’s trans­port sys­tem.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said: “My thoughts are with those in­jured at Par­sons Green and the emer­gency ser­vices who, once again, are re­spond­ing swiftly and bravely to a sus­pected ter­ror­ist in­ci­dent.”

But Don­ald Trump took to Twit­ter to sug­gest po­lice were at fault: “Another at­tack in London by a loser ter­ror­ist. These are sick and de­mented peo­ple who were in the sights of Scot­land Yard. Must be proac­tive!” The US Pres­i­dent added:

“Loser ter­ror­ists must be dealt with in a much tougher man­ner. The in­ter­net is their main re­cruit­ment tool which we must cut off & use bet­ter!”

In the Par­sons Green at­tack, se­cu­rity ex­perts be­lieved the bomb failed to work as in­tended, avoid­ing what could have been a large death toll. An­a­lysts be­lieve the bomb was fairly crude, but would have in­volved a team of ter­ror­ists, and was un­likely to be the work of a lone wolf.

Peter, one of the vic­tims who had burns to his head, told the BBC: “It was a re­ally hot, in­tense fire­ball above my head. There was a lot of peo­ple a lot worse than me. I saw a gentle­man in a puffer jacket and the whole back of that had been burned. He had burn marks across his face which were a lot worse than mine. Mostly it was fa­cial in­juries, I didn’t see any blood as such. It was sheer panic.’’

A wit­ness who works for the Metro news­pa­per said peo­ple were “re­ally badly burned” and “their hair was com­ing off”. Another woman was burned “from top to toe’’ while an­ther wit­ness said an el­derly man took the brunt of the ex­plo­sion in his face.

Michael Ben­nett, 38, told the London Evening Stan­dard: “I was to­wards the front of the rear car­riage. As the train pulled into the PARIS: France has opened a counter-ter­ror­ism in­quiry af­ter a man wield­ing a knife at­tacked a sol­dier in a Paris sub­way sta­tion yes­ter­day, the lat­est in­ci­dent tar­get­ing troops pro­tect­ing the cap­i­tal’s trans­port hubs and tourist sites.

Paris and other Euro­pean cap­i­tals are on high alert af­ter a wave of at­tacks in past years by Is­lamist mil­i­tants, many of them in­spired by Is­lamic State. The Paris in­ci­dent oc­curred plat­form there was a huge noise. I wasn’t fac­ing it at the time. I just heard a big noise and saw a shot of flames come past. I could feel it singe the back of my head.”

Fel­low com­muter Chris Wilds said: “There was a very strong smell of chem­i­cals, not a burn­ing smell. A flash went up into the roof of the car­riage … there were very dis­tressed chil­dren, and ba­bies and an old gentle­man took the brunt of the burn­ing, with bad burns around his face.”

Commuters de­scribed “ut­ter fear and panic’’ as hundreds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing many school­child­ren on their way to school, fled the train, caus­ing some to stum­ble and fall. Pic­tures showed hours be­fore sev­eral peo­ple were hurt at a London un­der­ground sta­tion in an ap­par­ent ter­ror­ism in­ci­dent.

The as­sailant in Paris was wres­tled to the ground and ar­rested. The sol­dier, part of Op­er­a­tion Sen­tinel, a force de­ployed in the wake of lethal Is­lamist at­tacks on France, es­caped un­hurt.

Po­lice said the at­tack hap­pened just be­fore 6.30am as the morn­ing rush hour got un­der way at the Chatelet sub­way sta­tion, where tens of thou­sands of commuters con­verge from Paris’s sub­urbs. commuters with burn in­juries to their heads, and bags and pa­pers strewn around the car­riage.

BBC re­porter So­phie Ra­worth saw a woman with burn film wrapped around her legs. “She has burns all over her body from top to toe, she is wrapped in pro­tec­tive film,’’ Ra­worth said.

Metropoli­tan Po­lice coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cers ar­rived at the scene, along with ex­perts in haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als. In the chaotic hour af­ter the blast hundreds of po­lice, fire­fight­ers and am­bu­lance of­fi­cers swarmed the scene and set up a broad no-go area.

The day be­fore, the Metropoli­tan Po­lice had re­ported there had been 19 foiled ter­ror­ist plots since Gov­ern­ment spokesman Christophe Cas­taner said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing han­dled by counter-ter­ror­ism spe­cial­ists.

A source said the as­sailant was Moroc­can-born and about 40. Po­lice raids at an ad­dress linked to the sus­pect were on­go­ing, French me­dia said the ag­gres­sor shouted ref­er­ences to Is­lamic State.

France an­nounced on Thurs­day that the 7000-strong force was be­ing adapted to make it more mo­bile and its move­ments less pre­dictable. 2013. Bri­tain’s ter­ror­ism threat level has been at se­vere — mean­ing an at­tack is highly likely — for the past few years.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Our city ut­terly con­demns the hideous in­di­vid­u­als who at­tempt to use ter­ror to harm us and de­stroy our way of life. As London has proven again and again, we will never be in­tim­i­dated or de­feated by ter­ror­ism.’’

Mr Trump ap­peared to link the at­tack to his ef­forts to im­pose a travel ban on Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more spe­cific — but stupidly, that would not be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect!”

The bucket bomb at London’s Par­sons Green

GETTY IM­AGES

An in­jured woman is es­corted by po­lice from the scene of the at­tack at Par­sons Green tube sta­tion in London

A po­lice­man guards a cor­don near Par­sons Green sta­tion as, right, heav­ily armed of­fi­cers se­cure the area

AP,AFP

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