De­vice had po­ten­tial to cause more dev­as­ta­tion than 7/7 blasts

The Daily Telegraph - - Terror On The Tube - By Martin Evans, Vic­to­ria Ward and Steve Bird

COUNTER-TER­ROR­ISM spe­cial­ists were last night car­ry­ing out de­tailed foren­sic anal­y­sis on the Par­sons Green de­vice, as ex­perts said it could have caused more fa­tal­i­ties than those used in the 7/7 at­tacks in Lon­don in 2005.

The im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice, which was con­tained in a 10-litre plas­tic bucket, ex­ploded on a Dis­trict line tube, as hun­dreds of com­muters made their way into the cen­tre of the cap­i­tal.

But mer­ci­fully, thanks to the in­com­pe­tence of the bomber, the main ex­plo­sive charge failed to go off when the de­vice was pre­ma­turely ac­ti­vated as the train sat at Par­sons Green sta­tion in south-west Lon­don.

The bomb was con­tained in a white bucket, which was dis­guised in a plas­tic cool bag from the su­per­mar­ket, Lidl. It ap­peared to have been cov­ered with a black cloth, per­haps to try to mask the smell from any chem­i­cals in the bucket and dis­guise its con­tents.

Images of the de­vice, taken by quick­think­ing pas­sen­gers, showed a string of Christ­mas fairy lights pro­trud­ing from the top of the bucket, which one expert sug­gested could have been used as part of a crude timer mech­a­nism.

Fairy lights were key to the ter­ror­ist plot launched by Zahid Hus­sain, a 29-year-old who planned to tar­get the high-speed Birm­ing­ham to Lon­don rail­way line with a home-made bomb.

He filled the de­vice with shrap­nel and made “im­pro­vised ig­nit­ers” from the dec­o­ra­tions, but he was caught be­fore he could carry out his at­tack and was jailed in May.

The lights, which would be at­tached to a bat­tery and could be set to flash in­ter­mit­tently, would be used to de­liver a charge into the det­o­na­tor.

The bomber could have set the lights to flash on a de­lay, giv­ing him­self a short win­dow in which to es­cape be­fore the de­vice det­o­nated. But it is thought the det­o­na­tor burst into flames pre­ma­turely, per­haps as a re­sult of fric­tion within the de­vice caused by the mov­ing train.

David Vide­cette, a for­mer Met counter-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cer who in­ves­ti­gated the 7/7 at­tacks, said the lat­est bomb ap­peared to have many sim­i­lar­i­ties with pre­vi­ous de­vices. He said: “In terms of scale this is big­ger than the de­vices used in 7/7, so had it gone off suc­cess­fully it would have caused huge loss of life. Who­ever built this was not an am­a­teur – it has many of the hall­marks of de­vices used by ter­ror groups, but the use of the timer to set off the ini­tial part of the de­vice is some­thing we have not seen be­fore in the UK.”

For­tu­nately, the fire­ball from the det­o­na­tor did not set off the main charge, pos­si­bly be­cause the bomber failed to get the cor­rect mix of chem­i­cals needed in or­der to com­plete the chain re­ac­tion needed for an ex­plo­sion.

Will Ged­des, a ter­ror­ism expert, said: “My sus­pi­cion is that Par­sons Green was not the in­tended tar­get. If it was Padding­ton or Not­ting Hill, they are in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised names.”

Sources said the bomb was packed with shrap­nel, in­clud­ing nuts, bolts and nails to cause max­i­mum dev­as­ta­tion. It is thought it was a chem­i­cal­based bomb, sim­i­lar to the one used by Sal­man Abedi in the sui­cide at­tack on the Manch­ester Arena ear­lier this year in which 22 peo­ple were killed. It was also thought to have sim­i­lar­i­ties to the bombs used to blow up Tube trains dur­ing the at­tacks on Lon­don in 2005.

But like the failed at­tacks two weeks af­ter that, the de­vice only par­tially ex­ploded due to a prob­lem with the main charge, likely to have been hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide or TATP. Hans Michels, pro­fes­sor of safety en­gi­neer­ing at Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don, said: “There are a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties with the af­ter­math of the sec­ond largely failed explosions on the Lon­don un­der­ground in 2005.

“In ap­pear­ance and ar­range­ment the rem­nants of the de­vice seem highly sim­i­lar to those of the hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide based de­vices of 2005. The size of the de­vice and its con­tain­ment in a plas­tic bucket is also the same.”

Theresa May is ex­pected to or­der tech com­pa­nies such as Google to crack down on ex­trem­ist ma­te­rial fol­low­ing the at­tack. In­struc­tions to make the fairy light bomb used by the ter­ror­ist could still be found on­line last night.

The Prime Min­is­ter is ex­pected to ad­dress the is­sue dur­ing a sum­mit with Em­manuel Macron, the French president, next week.

Counter-ter­ror­ism ex­perts, mean­while, will be as­sess­ing an ap­par­ent change in tac­tics, with the sus­pect ap­pear­ing in­tent on es­cap­ing rather than killing him­self. Last night, there was a mas­sive man­hunt un­der way across Lon­don for the bomber amid con­cerns that he could strike again, per­haps this time us­ing a cruder method such as a ve­hi­cle or knife at­tack.

‘This is big­ger than the de­vices used in 7/7, so had it gone off suc­cess­fully it would have caused huge loss of life’

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