Bri­tain on high­est alert as man­hunt un­der way

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Gavin Cor­don

Bri­tain is on crit­i­cal ter­ror alert with mil­i­tary troops set to bol­ster po­lice forces as po­lice hunt for the Par­sons Green bomber.

A man­hunt is un­der way af­ter the im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice (IED) sent a fire­ball through a packed Lon­don Un­der­ground train car­riage in south west Lon­don, dur­ing morn­ing rush-hour — 29 peo­ple were in­jured, though they are not be­lieved to be se­ri­ously hurt.

In the wake of the at­tack, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May raised the threat level to the high­est pos­si­ble rat­ing, mean­ing an­other at­tack is ex­pected im­mi­nently.

The Is­lamic State (IS) ter­ror group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for yes­ter­day’s at­tack through its Amaq news agency, ac­cord­ing to the USbased Site In­tel­li­gence. Rita Katz, di­rec­tor of Site, said IS claimed the bomb­ing was the work of a “de­tach­ment” rather than sim­ply a “sol­dier”, which she said im­plied it was a co-or­di­nated at­tack.

The ter­ror group has fre- quently de­clared that it was be­hind ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents in re­cent years but ex­perts have warned that their claims should be treated with cau­tion.

Ms May said mil­i­tary per­son­nel would re­place po­lice of­fi­cers “on guard du­ties at cer­tain pro­tected sites which are not ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic”.

She said: “The pub­lic will see more armed po­lice on the trans­port net­work and on our streets, pro­vid­ing ex­tra pro­tec­tion. This is a pro­por­tion­ate and sen­si­ble step which will pro­vide ex­tra re­as­sur­ance and pro­tec­tion while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­gresses.”

Scot­land Yard have launched a huge counter-ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tion along­side MI5, while the de­vice is be­ing foren­si­cally ex­am­ined.

Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan told LBC ra­dio “there is a man­hunt un­der way as we speak”, while Scot­land Yard said de­tec­tives are mak­ing “fast-time” in­quiries to es­tab­lish who was re­spon­si­ble.

Mean­while, Theresa May strongly re­buked Don­ald Trump over his claim the per­pe­tra­tors of the Par­sons Green Tube bomb­ing had been known to po­lice.

Af­ter chair­ing a meet­ing of the gov­ern­ment’s Co­bra emer­gen­cies com­mit­tee, Ms May said it was not “help­ful” to spec­u­late on what was an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Po­lice sus­pect the ex­plo­sion was sparked when an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice was det­o­nated, and have launched a huge counter-ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tion along­side MI5.

The de­vice is be­ing foren­si­cally ex­am­ined while de­tec­tives are scour­ing CCTV and ex­am­in­ing wit­ness state­ments for po­ten­tial leads.

The blast comes with the UK on high alert fol­low­ing four ter­ror­ist at­tacks so far this year. Au­thor­i­ties have foiled 19 plots since the mid­dle of 2013 — in­clud­ing six since the Westminster atroc­ity in March.

The in­ci­dent comes a day af­ter fig­ures showed ter­ror­re­lated ar­rests in Bri­tain have hit a new record high, with sus­pects held at a rate of more than one every day.

Po­lice and MI5 are run­ning 500 in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­volv­ing 3,000 in­di­vid­u­als at any one time, while there are also 20,000 for­mer “sub­jects of in­ter­est” whose risk must be kept un­der re­view.

UK prime min­is­ter Theresa May has raised con­cerns with US President Don­ald Trump over his claim the per­pe­tra­tors of the Par­sons Green Tube bomb­ing had been “in the sights” of Scot­land Yard.

It came as hun­dreds of po­lice em­barked on a mas­sive man­hunt, rac­ing to find out who placed a home­made bomb on a packed Lon­don sub­way train dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour.

The ex­plo­sion — la­belled a ter­ror­ist at­tack by po­lice — wounded 29 peo­ple and ig­nited a pan­icked stam­pede to safety. Ex­perts said Lon­don may have es­caped far worse car­nage be­cause it ap­peared the bomb only par­tially ex­ploded.

Af­ter a meet­ing of her gov­ern­ment’s Co­bra emer­gen­cies com­mit­tee, Ms May pub­licly re­buked the US president, say­ing was not “help­ful” to spec­u­late on what was an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a tweet is­sued within hours of the blast, Mr Trump wrote: “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!”

Ms May is un­der­stood to have raised the is­sue dur­ing a “cor­dial” tele­phone call.

Mr Trump’s in­ter­ven­tion threat­ened to place fresh strain on the US-UK in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing re­la­tion­ship which has come un­der pres­sure a num­ber of times since he en­tered the White House.

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice said the president’s com­ments — which did not cor­re­spond with any in­for­ma­tion re­leased by the UK au­thor­i­ties — were “un­help­ful” and “pure spec­u­la­tion”.

Ms May said: “I never think it’s help­ful for any­body to spec­u­late on what is an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The po­lice and se­cu­rity ser­vices are work­ing to dis­cover the full cir­cum­stances of this cow­ardly at­tack and to iden­tify all those re­spon­si­ble.”

Asked later if he had been briefed on in­tel­li­gence about the at­tack, Mr Trump ap­peared to side­step the is­sue say­ing he had been briefed “on nu­mer­ous things” in­clud­ing North Korea.

“It’s a ter­ri­ble thing. It just keeps go­ing and go­ing, and we have to be very smart, we have to be very, very tough. Per­haps we are not nearly tough enough,” he said.

“It’s just an ab­so­lutely ter­ri­ble thing. In fact, I’m go­ing to call the prime min­is­ter right now. We have to be tougher and we have to be smarter.”

Down­ing Street said Mr Trump had of­fered his con­do­lences over the at­tack dur­ing a tele­phone call.

The ter­ror­ist at­tack was the fifth in Bri­tain this year.

Wit­nesses de­scribed see­ing a “wall of fire” as the bomb — hid­den in a plas­tic bucket in­side a su­per­mar­ket freezer bag — went off about 8.20am while the train was at the Par­sons Green sta­tion in south­west Lon­don. Po­lice said there had been no ar­rests, but hun­dreds of de­tec­tives, aided by in­tel­li­gence agents, were look­ing at surveillance footage, car­ry­ing out foren­sic work and speak­ing to wit­nesses.

It’s not clear if the de­vice was in­tended to ex­plode when it did. The site of the blast was in a leafy, af­flu­ent part of the city, not near any of Lon­don’s top tourist sites.

Pho­tos taken in­side the train show a white plas­tic bucket in­side a foil-lined shop­ping bag. Flames and what ap­pear to be wires emerge from the top.

Pic­ture: Tim Ire­land/PA

Bri­tish Trans­port Po­lice at Eus­ton Sta­tion, Lon­don, af­ter the ter­ror­ist in­ci­dent on a packed Tube train.

Pic­tures: PA

An in­jured woman is as­sisted by a po­lice of­fi­cer close to Par­sons Green sta­tion in west Lon­don af­ter a ter­ror­ist in­ci­dent which saw a ‘fire­ball’ and a ‘wall of flame’ through a packed train.

Armed po­lice out in force af­ter the ex­plo­sion.

Metropoli­tan Po­lice As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Mark Row­ley speaks to the me­dia fol­low­ing the blast.

A foren­sic tent on the plat­form at Par­sons Green sta­tion.

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