LON­DON ON EDGE

Tube bomb­ing height­ens ‘crit­i­cal’ ter­ror threat

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT MENDICK, MARTIN EVANS, BEN FARMER, VICTORIA WARD STEVE BIRD AND in Lon­don

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May or­dered troops on to the streets Fri­day night af­ter a sus­pected Is­lamist placed a pow­er­ful time-bomb on a packed rush-hour train head­ing to­ward West­min­ster, in the heart of the his­toric cap­i­tal city.

May made the de­ci­sion af­ter the in­de­pen­dent Joint Ter­ror­ism Assess­ment Cen­tre rec­om­mended rais­ing the ter- ror threat to its high­est level, Crit­i­cal, mean­ing an­other at­tack is be­lieved to be im­mi­nent. The Army be­gan de­ploy­ing troops at key lo­ca­tions to free up po­lice, who were in­volved in a huge man­hunt.

ISIL claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, which left more than 20 peo­ple in­jured when an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice went off on a packed train at Par­sons Green in south­west Lon­don. The main de­vice, which was packed with shrap­nel and fit­ted with a crude timer, failed to det­o­nate, mean­ing po­ten­tially hun­dreds of lives were spared.

The de­vice, which was in a 10- litre plas­tic bucket in­side a white plas­tic su­per­mar­ket bag, also ap­peared to have been cov­ered with a black cloth, per­haps to try to mask the smell from any chem­i­cals in the bucket and dis­guise what was in­side.

Mer­ci­fully, the main ex­plo­sive charge failed to go off. Po­lice think the bomb may have ac­ci­den­tally det­o­nated pre­ma­turely, with the vastly larger West­min­ster sta­tion the in­tended tar­get. Sources said the bomb was packed with nuts, bolts and nails to cause max­i­mum dev­as­ta­tion when it ex­ploded, sim­i­lar to the one used by Sal­man Abedi in the sui­cide at­tack on the Manch­ester Arena ear­lier this year in which 22 peo­ple were killed.

Chaos en­sued as hun­dreds of peo­ple, some of them suf­fer­ing burns, poured from the train, which can hold up to 800 peo­ple.

“I ended up squashed on the stair­case. Peo­ple were fall­ing over, peo­ple faint­ing, cry­ing. There were lit­tle kids cling­ing onto the back of me,” said one com­muter, Ryan Bar­nett.

Peter Crow­ley, a sales con­sul­tant, posted a pic­ture on his Twit­ter feed show­ing his charred scalp, his hair burnt to the roots.

“I heard a large bang from the doors on the other side of the Tube train and this fireball came towards my head and singed off all my hair,” said Crow­ley. “It was a re­ally hot in­tense fireball above my head. I’ve just got red marks and burns to the top of my head. There were a lot of peo­ple a lot worse than me.”

He saw one man burnt across the side of his face while the whole of the back of his jacket was set alight.

Lau­ren Hub­bard, who was in the last car of the train with her boyfriend, heard a loud bang and saw a “fireball” rac­ing in her di­rec­tion.

“It was hot and just came towards you, this flam­ing or­ange com­ing towards you. It smelt like burn­ing,” she re­called, “We ran and hid be­hind ce­ment boxes on the tracks and were the last peo­ple to get off the plat­form.”

She knew straight away what was hap­pen­ing. “My first thought was: ‘ this is a ter­ror­ist at­tack, I’m go­ing to die.’ ”

Images of the de­vice, taken by quick-think­ing pas­sen­gers, showed a string of LED Christ­mas lights pro­trud­ing from the top of the bucket, which one ex­pert sug­gested could have been used as part of a crude timer mech­a­nism. The lights, which would be at­tached to a bat­tery and could be set to flash in­ter­mit­tently, would be used to de­liver a charge into the det­o­na­tor.

The­o­ret­i­cally, the bomber could have set the lights to flash on a de­lay, giv­ing him­self a short win­dow in which to es­cape be­fore the de­vice det­o­nated. But it is thought the det­o­na­tor, which is usu­ally made up of volatile or flammable ma­te­ri­als, burst into flames pre­ma­turely, per­haps as a re­sult of fric­tion within the de­vice caused by the mov­ing train, or pos­si­bly be­cause the bomber failed to get the cor­rect mix of chem­i­cals needed in or­der to com­plete the chain re­ac­tion needed for an ex­plo­sion.

David Vide­cette, a for­mer po­lice counter-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cer who in­ves­ti­gated the so-called 7/7 at­tacks in July 2005 that killed 56 and in­jured nearly 800 peo­ple in Lon­don, said the IED ap­peared to have many sim­i­lar­i­ties with pre­vi­ous de­vices.

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