U.K. threat level raised to crit­i­cal af­ter sub­way bomb

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A home­made bomb planted in a rush-hour sub­way car in­jured 29 peo­ple in Lon­don on Fri­day, spark­ing a huge man­hunt for the per­pe­tra­tors of what po­lice said was the fourth ter­ror­ist at­tack in the Bri­tish cap­i­tal this year.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said the de­vice “was in­tended to cause sig­nif­i­cant harm,” but to the re­lief of au­thor­i­ties and Lon­don­ers, the bomb — hid­den in a plas­tic bucket in­side a su­per­mar­ket freezer bag — only par­tially ex­ploded, spar­ing the city much worse car­nage.

“I would say this was a failed high-ex­plo­sive de­vice,” Chris Hunter, a for­mer Bri­tish army bomb ex­pert, said of the blast, which caused no se­ri­ous in­juries.

Late Fri­day The Is­lamic State group claimed the Lon­don sub­way ex­plo­sion was car­ried out by an af­fil­i­ated unit.

The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. as the train, car­ry­ing com­muters from the sub­urbs — in­clud­ing many school chil­dren — was at Par­sons Green sta­tion in the south­west of the city.

Wit­ness Chris Wild­ish told Sky News that he saw “out of the cor­ner of my eye, a mas­sive flash of flames that went up the side of the train,” fol­lowed by “an acrid chem­i­cal smell.” Com­muter Lau­ren Hub­bard said she was on the train when she heard a loud bang.

“I looked around and this wall of fire was just com­ing to­ward us,” Hub­bard said. She said her in­stinct was “just run,” and she fled the above-ground sta­tion with her boyfriend. 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 an­other com­muter, Ryan Bar­nett. Pas­sen­ger Luke Walm­s­ley said it was “like ev­ery man for him­self to get down the stairs.”

“Peo­ple were just push­ing,” he added. “There were nan­nies or mums ask­ing where their chil­dren were.”

Po­lice and health of­fi­cials said 29 peo­ple were treated in Lon­don hos­pi­tals, most of them for flash burns. None of the in­juries were se­ri­ous or lifethreat­en­ing, the emer­gency ser­vices said.

Trains were sus­pended along a stretch of the Un­der­ground’s District Line, and sev­eral homes were evac­u­ated as po­lice set up a 50-me­ter (150-foot) cor­don around the scene while they se­cured the de­vice and launched a search for those who planted it.

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice said hun­dreds of de­tec­tives, along with agents of the do­mes­tic spy agency MI5, were look­ing at sur­veil­lance cam­era footage, car­ry­ing out foren­sic work and speak­ing to wit­nesses. Among ques­tions they were rush­ing to an­swer: What was the de­vice made from, and was it meant to go off when it did, in a leafy, af­flu­ent part of the city far from Lon­don’s top tourist sites?

Bri­tish me­dia re­ported that the bomb in­cluded a timer. Lewis Her­ring­ton, a ter­ror­ism ex­pert at Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity, said that would set it apart from sui­cide at­tacks like those on the Lon­don sub­way in 2005 or at Manch­ester Arena in May, in which the at­tack­ers “all wanted to die.”

Photos taken in­side the train showed a white plas­tic bucket in­side a foil-lined shop­ping bag, with flames and what ap­peared to be wires emerg­ing from the top.

Ter­ror­ism an­a­lyst Mag­nus Ranstorp of the Swedish De­fence Univer­sity said that from the photos it ap­peared the bomb did not fully det­o­nate, as much of the de­vice and its cas­ing re­mained in­tact.

“They were re­ally lucky with this one, it could have re­ally become much worse,” he said.

AP PHOTO

A po­lice foren­sic tent stands setup on the plat­form next to the train, at left, on which a home­made bomb ex­ploded at Par­sons Green sub­way sta­tion in Lon­don, Eng­land,Fri­day.

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