Trump angers Britain after London attack
WASHINGTON/LONDON: U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that London police could have done more to prevent a homemade bomb explosion drew speedy pushback Friday from British Prime Minister Theresa May.
The bomb exploded on a packed train during morning rush hour Friday, leaving 29 people wounded but no one with life-threatening injuries. Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement published by its Amaq news agency.
In a televised statement following the explosion, May said that the U.K. has raised its national security threat level from severe to critical, meaning an attack is expected.
The prime minister added that armed police and soldiers will be seen on the streets in the coming days.
In a series of early-morning tweets, Trump called the explosion another attack “by a loser terrorist.” He also offered implied criticism of law enforcement, saying “these are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”
That online broadside brought a terse public response from May, who warned the U.S. president and others not to speculate.
“I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation,” May told journalists in London.
Trump’s latest comments were described as “unhelpful” by London’s Metropolitan Police, as well as by Nick Timothy, May’s former chief of staff. “True or not – and I’m sure he doesn’t know – this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner,” Timothy wrote on Twitter.
After his tweets, and with ties apparently under strain, Trump spoke with May to offer his sympathies and “pledged to continue close collaboration with the United Kingdom to stop attacks worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism,” the White House said in a brief statement. It did not say if the two discussed Trump’s tweet.
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.
The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. as the train, carrying commuters from the suburbs – including many schoolchildren – 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 .”
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.
Trains were suspended along a stretch of the Underground’s District Line, and several homes were evacuated as police set up a 50-meter 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.
The bomb only partially exploded, injuring 29.