Twenty-nine wounded in Lon­don bomb­ing

The Western Star - - World -

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.

Hunter, the ex­plo­sives ex­pert, said it ap­peared that “there was a bang, a bit of a flash, and that would sug­gest that, po­ten­tially, some of the ex­plo­sive det­o­nated, the det­o­na­tor det­o­nated, but much of the ex­plo­sive was ef­fec­tively in­ert.”

Po­lice and am­bu­lances were on the scene within min­utes of the blast, a tes­ta­ment to their ex­pe­ri­ence at re­spond­ing to vi­o­lent at­tacks in Lon­don. The city has been a tar­get for decades: from Ir­ish Repub­li­can Army bombers, right-wing ex­trem­ists and, more re­cently, at­tack­ers in­spired by al-Qaida or the Is­lamic State group.

In its re­cent In­spire mag­a­zine, al-Qaida urged sup­port­ers to tar­get trains.

Bri­tain has seen four other ter­ror­ist at­tacks this year, which killed a to­tal of 36 peo­ple. The other at­tacks in Lon­don — near Par­lia­ment, on Lon­don Bridge and near a mosque in Fins­bury Park in north Lon­don — used ve­hi­cles and knives. Sim­i­lar meth­ods have been used in at­tacks across Europe, in­clud­ing in Nice, Stock­holm, Ber­lin and Barcelona.

In con­trast Fri­day’s at­tack in­volved the “det­o­na­tion of an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice,” said Mark Row­ley, head of coun­tert­er­ror­ism for the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice.

Af­ter chair­ing a meet­ing of the gov­ern­ment’s CO­BRA emer­gency com­mit­tee, the prime min­is­ter said that Bri­tain’s of­fi­cial threat level from ter­ror­ism re­mained at “se­vere,” mean­ing an at­tack is highly likely, and was not be­ing raised to crit­i­cal.

The coun­try’s threat level was briefly raised to crit­i­cal, mean­ing an at­tack may be im­mi­nent, af­ter the May 22 sui­cide bomb­ing at Manch­ester Arena that killed 22 peo­ple.

Bri­tish author­i­ties say they have foiled 19 plots since the mid­dle of 2013, six of them since the van and knife at­tack on West­min­ster Bridge and Par­lia­ment in March, which killed five peo­ple.

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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