DID POLICE KNOW TUBE BOMBER?
DONALD Trump sparked a furious row yesterday by claiming the Parsons Green Tube bomber had been “in the sights” of Scotland Yard. The US President also infuriated Yard chiefs by
saying “Must be proactive!”, suggesting they are slacking in the war on terror. President Trump’s comments in a trademark Twitter message earned him a sharp rebuke from Theresa May.
Senior Yard officers, who traditionally avoid public political wrangling, joined the spat and dismissed the President’s tweet as “unhelpful speculation”. But last night the question remained – does the US President know something the British authorities refuse to tell us?
The Islamic State terror group claimed “a detachment” of its fighters had carried out the attack. And with the bomber on the run, there were fears he or accomplices could launch further attacks.
The President made his comments just hours after the terrorist tried to slaughter commuters on a packed Tube train with a crude bucket bomb. The suspect is believed to have been captured on CCTV shortly before an explosion sent a fireball ripping through a crowded carriage.
The blast on a District Line train at Parsons Green, west London, at 8.20am left 29 people injured, mostly with flash burns. The youngest victim is believed to be 10.
Luckily, the home-made bomb in a white plastic bucket only partially detonated and none of the victims is in a life-threatening condition.
It was the fifth terrorist outrage in Britain this year and the threat level was described last night as “severe to critical” – meaning another attack is highly likely.
The attack also revived memories of the 7/7 suicide bombings which claimed the lives of 52 victims on Tube trains and a bus in 2005.
Just hours after the explosion, President Trump posted his inflammatory Twitter message. It read: “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!”
After chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, Mrs May slapped down the leader of Britain’s closest ally, saying: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation. If anyone has got any evidence or information, please contact the anti-terrorism hotline.”
Initially, the Yard declined to comment. Later a spokesman said: “The comments are unhelpful and pure speculation.”
Asked about his comments at the White House, President Trump said he would call Mrs May “right now”.
During the call the Prime Minister raised her concerns over the comment directly with him.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “President Trump called the Prime Minister earlier today to offer his condolences over this morning’s cowardly attack in London.”
It is understood his “Must be proactive!” line in his tweet particularly rankled with senior officers.
Working round-the-clock, police and MI5 have thwarted 19 plots since 2013, including six since the Westminster atrocity in March.
Terrorism arrests are running at more than one a day and there are 500 investigations involving 3,000 individuals being carried out at any one time. On top of that extraordinary workload, there are also 20,000 former “subjects of interest” whose risk must be kept under review. In the past some terrorists who were “known to the authorities” have gone on to carry out attacks. They include Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge attackers who murdered eight people in June.
Butt had been under investigation but inquiries were downgraded because there was “no evidence of attack planning”.
The diplomatic row comes after police temporarily suspended intelligence sharing with the US in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing in May following a series of leaks to US media. CBS even revealed the name of the bomber, Salman Abedi. At the time, police were asking the British media to withhold the information.
The New York Times published detailed photos of the bomb scene which had been passed to the US authorities by British investigators.
The “special relationship” had already come under strain earlier in the year when then White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeated claims that GCHQ, the UK surveillance agency, had been involved in bugging the Trump election campaign on behalf of Barack Obama. His comments drew a rare public statement from GCHQ denouncing the allegation as “utterly ridiculous”.
Forensic officers were last night still working to discover traces of the bomber’s DNA and fingerprints from the scene of yesterday’s attack.
Others were scouring CCTV to find out where the bomber boarded the train and trace his movements.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of counter-terrorism policing, said: “We urge the public to remain calm but alert. If they see or hear anything suspicious contact the confidential hotline on 0800 789 321.”
IT COULD have been far, far worse. The crude bomb in a bucket that exploded on a London Underground train in Parsons Green was intended to do much greater damage, probably further down the line when there would have been many more passengers on board in the morning rush hour. It detonated prematurely and failed to ignite the explosive.
Fortunately there has been no loss of life but the incident brought back memories of the 2005 atrocity on the Underground which caused many deaths and catastrophic, life-changing injuries.
There were injuries yesterday too and there was panic. It was an ordinary morning in early autumn, with children on their way to school and commuters on their way to work. And suddenly they were confronted with terror – the fourth terror attack this year following Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.
Boris Johnson has urged the public to “stay calm and go about your lives”. And that is exactly what the public will do. As it always does. We are now dubious about the clichéd response that if we change our behaviour then the “terrorist wins”. But in reality there is nothing else we can do but carry on with our normal lives and hope that the police and the authorities have all the help and resources they need to track down the bombers.
A heavily armed officer runs towards the station yesterday
Forensic officers at Parsons Green...the train was pulling in as the bucket bomb exploded
Paramedics, police and fire officers outside the station entrance after the rush hour blast
Trump at White House yesterday