Troops on the street af­ter Tube bomb at­tack

Com­muters in­jured as fire­ball en­gulfs car­riage and prompts des­per­ate stam­pede from sta­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Robert Men­dick, Martin Evans and Ben Farmer

THE Prime Min­is­ter or­dered troops on to the streets last night af­ter a sus­pected Is­lamist placed a pow­er­ful time-bomb on a packed rush-hour train head­ing to­wards Westminster.

Theresa May took the de­ci­sion af­ter the in­de­pen­dent Joint Ter­ror­ism As­sess­ment Cen­tre rec­om­mended rais­ing the ter­ror threat to its high­est level, Crit­i­cal, mean­ing an­other at­tack is be­lieved to be im­mi­nent. The Army will de­ploy troops at key lo­ca­tions not ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic around the cap­i­tal to free up po­lice. Last night of­fi­cers and MI5 were in­volved in a huge man­hunt for the bomber and any pos­si­ble ac­com­plices. It is not known if he had other de­vices ready to de­ploy.

Isil claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, which left more than 20 peo­ple in­jured when an im­pro­vised bomb went off on a packed Dis­trict line train at Par­sons Green in south-west Lon­don.

The main de­vice, which was packed with shrap­nel and fit­ted with a crude timer, failed to detonate, mean­ing po­ten­tially hun­dreds of lives were spared. Po­lice think the bomb may have ac­ci­den­tally det­o­nated pre­ma­turely, with Westminster sta­tion the in­tended tar­get.

Af­ter the at­tack, Don­ald Trump, the US president, seemed to ac­cuse the po­lice of er­rors, tweet­ing: “These are sick and de­mented peo­ple who were in the sights of Scot­land Yard.” Counter-ter­ror­ism sources de­nied they had been aware of the sus­pect.

COM­MUTERS on the packed 8.20am Dis­trict line Tube were lucky. As the train pulled into Par­sons Green sta­tion in south-west Lon­don, a plas­tic bucket that had been placed by a set of doors ex­ploded be­fore their eyes.

It sent a ball of flame into the air and sparked a stam­pede; pas­sen­gers, among them chil­dren and at least one preg­nant woman, were tram­pled in the race to es­cape. Twenty-nine peo­ple would be in­jured in the blast and the chaos that en­sued, the youngest aged just 10. Eigh­teen of them suf­fered burns as their car­riage was en­gulfed in flames.

It could have been so much worse. The im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice con­tained in the bucket did not prop­erly go off. In­stead it sent a fire­ball into the air that singed and scorched com­muters in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of the rear car­riage of the train.

Peter Crow­ley, a sales con­sul­tant, posted a pic­ture on his Twit­ter feed show­ing his charred scalp, his hair burnt to the roots.

“I heard a large bang from the doors on the other side of the Tube train and this fire­ball came to­wards my head and singed off all my hair,” said Mr Crow­ley, 37, from Sut­ton in south Lon­don. “It was a re­ally hot, in­tense fire­ball above my head. I’ve just got red marks and burns to the top of my head. There were a lot of peo­ple a lot worse than me.”

He saw one man burnt across the side of his face while the whole of the back of his puffa jacket was set alight.

A caller to LBC ra­dio sta­tion said he was speak­ing from hos­pi­tal where he was be­ing treated for burns. “It’s my head, and it’s my hair. Just hurts.”

“It’s crazy,” he added. “There was a flame in my face. There were just peo­ple with hair on fire… hands on fire.”

Luke Warm­s­ley, 33, who was on the train, said: “It was like a large match had gone off at the end of the car­riage. There was a plume of smoke that went off. I looked down the car­riage and just saw more and more peo­ple run­ning to­wards me.”

Lau­ren Hub­bard, 24, who was in the end car­riage of the train with her boyfriend, heard a loud bang and saw a “fire­ball” rac­ing in her di­rec­tion.

“It was hot and just came to­wards you, this flam­ing or­ange com­ing to­wards you. It smelt like burn­ing,” she re­called, “We ran and hid be­hind ce­ment boxes on the tracks and were the last peo­ple to get off the plat­form.”

She knew straight away what was hap­pen­ing. “My first thought was: ‘this is a ter­ror­ist at­tack, I’m go­ing to die’.”

The ex­plo­sion sparked an in­evitable panic. The train had just pulled into the plat­form and pas­sen­gers had got on at Par­sons Green, head­ing east­bound to Vic­to­ria and Westminster. The doors had shut again when the de­vice went

‘It was hot and just came to­wards you, this flam­ing or­ange com­ing to­wards you. It smelt like burn­ing’

‘It was a re­ally hot in­tense fire­ball above my head. I’ve got burns to the top of my head. There were a lot of peo­ple a lot worse than me’

off. The train doors opened im­me­di­ately and with the flames leap­ing in the air, com­muters ran scream­ing for their lives.

In the car­riage lay a smoul­der­ing white bucket in a Lidl su­per­mar­ket shop­ping bag, wires trail­ing from the bucket on to the floor.

Chris Wild­ish, who was on the train, de­scribed the “de­vice” in the last car­riage. “Flames were still com­ing out of it when I saw it. It had a lot of wires hang­ing out of it – I can only as­sume it was done on pur­pose,” he said. “It was stand­ing against the door of the rear­most car­riage.”

The plas­tic bucket, still smoul­der­ing, was cap­tured on a video taken by Syl­vain Pen­nec. “It looked like a bucket of may­on­naise,” he said. “I’m not sure if it was a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion or some­thing else, but it looked home made.”

The re­mains may not have im­pressed on­look­ers but the ex­plo­sion had trig­gered – not sur­pris­ingly – may­hem.

Ryan Bar­nett, 25, who works in pol­i­tics, was sit­ting lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. He said: “I’m not re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion and all of a sud­den hun­dreds of peo­ple run past me scream­ing a mix­ture of ‘stam­pede’, ‘at­tack’, ‘ter­ror­ist’, ‘ex­plo­sion’, ‘get off the train’, ‘ev­ery­one run’. I ended up squashed on the stair­case, peo­ple were fall­ing over, peo­ple faint­ing, cry­ing, there were lit­tle kids cling­ing on to the back of me,” he said, “It was ab­so­lute chaos. At one stage we thought we might be trapped there – I heard a preg­nant woman lost her shoes and had fallen over.”

Char­lie Craven, who works in the City, said: “I stepped in [to the car­riage], within two or three sec­onds there was a mas­sive ex­plo­sion. There was a mas­sive fire­ball en­com­pass­ing the whole car­riage.

“We man­aged to get off, but there was mass hys­te­ria and peo­ple shout­ing and scream­ing. A few of us ducked un­der the fence and ran down the track. We thought there could be a sec­ond bomb or a gun­man – I thought that was us gone.”

Most pas­sen­gers headed straight for the sta­tion exit via a stair­case at the front of the train. The crush was every bit as ter­ri­fy­ing as the ex­plo­sion that pre­ceded it. Wit­nesses de­scribed see­ing a preg­nant woman tram­pled un­der foot fear­ing for her baby. They told of a school­boy, aged about 10, his head smashed on the floor of a con­crete stair.

Emma Steven­ton, 27, a beauty blog­ger, who lives in Par­sons Green, said: “We just all ran for our lives, and we didn’t know why, we didn’t hear an ex­plo­sion. We got to the steps and it was just the worst proper hu­man crush. There was a woman un­der­neath me and there was a lady shout­ing: ‘I’m preg­nant’. There was a lit­tle boy, his face had got smacked into the step.

“I was hold­ing on to the rail­ing in a foetal po­si­tion try­ing not to put my weight on any­one but there was just lay­ers and lay­ers of peo­ple scream­ing.”

Olaniyi Shokunbi, 24, a fit­ness in­struc­tor who had been on the train, spot­ted a boy, ly­ing on the floor, plead­ing for help to find his younger sib­ling.

“I re­ally felt sorry for him, he couldn’t have been more than 11,” said Mr Shokunbi, “He had scratches on his head, he was look­ing for his lit­tle brother.”

Richard Aylmer-hall, 53, a me­dia tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tant, saw sev­eral peo­ple in­jured, tram­pled in the es­cape. “There was lots of shout­ing and scream­ing,” he said.

Out­side the sta­tion, the res­cue ef­forts con­tin­ued. So­phie Ra­worth, the BBC news pre­sen­ter, saw a woman on a stretcher with burns to her face and legs. “She’s con­scious, she was tak­ing oxy­gen and pain re­lief as well. She seemed to have burns all over her body from top to toe,” she said.

As the in­jured were be­ing cared for, the hunt be­gan for the bomber.

Heav­ily armed anti-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cers con­tin­ued to pa­trol the area. They car­ried “mil­i­tary-style” weaponry as they searched homes and gar­dens within the half-mile cor­don.

Res­i­dents were evac­u­ated shortly af­ter the at­tack. The area is a wealthy, fam­ily-ori­en­tated neigh­bour­hood where typ­i­cal Vic­to­rian ter­race houses can be worth any­where be­tween £2mil­lion to £4mil­lion.

Last night, five streets, from Elm­stone Road to Whit­tingstall Road, re­mained in­side the po­lice cor­don. Foren­sic tents could be seen be­ing erected at the end of the streets.

Scot­land Yard said the area sur­round­ing Par­sons Green Tube sta­tion had been evac­u­ated so spe­cial­ist of­fi­cers could “se­cure the rem­nants of the im­pro­vised de­vice and en­sure it is sta­ble”.

At Ride Repub­lic, an ex­er­cise stu­dio near the sta­tion, armed po­lice evac­u­ated the build­ing. Ru­mours had abounded – later scotched – that there might have been a sec­ond bomb.

No­body was tak­ing any chances. The Zebedee Nurs­ery was sub­ject to a po­lice cor­don. Armed anti-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cers stood guard and chil­dren were kept in­side un­der their pro­tec­tion. Su­san Ga­han, the prin­ci­pal, said: “The po­lice were amaz­ing, we didn’t have many chil­dren as par­ents couldn’t get to us.”

The lo­cal Kens­ing­ton Prep school was also in lock­down. Par­ents who raced to the scene were or­dered into the White Horse Pub, a lo­cal land­mark, to wait for news of their chil­dren. One mother, whose child is at the school, told The Daily Tele­graph she had been in­formed that all the pupils had been moved to the build­ing’s hall and the school had been closed off as a pre­cau­tion.

In the cof­fee shop out­side the Tube sta­tion, Rachel Green, 18, rushed to the aid of the dis­tressed com­muters. “We went to con­sole them,” she said, “There were over 100 – women com­ing out with­out shoes, bat­tered and bruised, and they’d left their hand­bags be­hind. Two peo­ple came in to the shop with their clothes burnt off, who said they saw a fire com­ing to­wards them. There were moth­ers with ba­bies.”

A cou­ple who had been due to get mar­ried at 3pm at St Dio­nis Church, which was in­side the po­lice cor­don, sud­denly found them­selves in a race for a new venue. They suc­ceeded in mar­ry­ing half an hour later than planned at All Saints Church near Put­ney Bridge. The Bishop of Kens­ing­ton, the Rt Rev Dr Gra­ham Tom­lin, said: “We had to move quite quickly. Mov­ing a wed­ding is quite a com­pli­cated legal busi­ness. We man­aged to make it work so the cou­ple could get mar­ried in All Saints Church, the par­ish next door. It is a bit of a sign that life can con­tinue and good things hap­pen re­ally, in the mid­dle of some­thing deeply evil like this.”

Lon­don had come un­der at­tack again; the fourth time in six months. This was the first in that time in which no­body, thank­fully, had been killed. The bomber had van­ished last night, their iden­tity still not known.

Mark Row­ley, the Met As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner, said last night that the po­lice were mak­ing “ex­cel­lent progress” in the hunt for the ter­ror­ist, with of­fi­cers trawl­ing through hun­dreds of hours of CCTV footage and 77 images and videos taken by mem­bers of the pub­lic.

Mr Row­ley said the de­ci­sion to put troops on the street would free up around 1,000 armed of­fi­cers to help re­as­sure the pub­lic and keep peo­ple safe.

The troops will be de­ployed at places nor­mally guarded by armed po­lice of­fi­cers, such as nu­clear power sta­tions and im­por­tant pub­lic venues, but they will also be avail­able to of­fer sup­port in the event of a ma­jor ter­ror­ist at­tack.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of Lon­don, praised the city’s re­silience. “Within mo­ments, the bril­liant TFL [Trans­port for Lon­don] staff were help­ing com­muters em­bark and get to safety,” he said, “Lo­cal shop­keep­ers and com­muters were help­ing other pas­sen­gers who may have been hurt.”

In the com­ing days, the po­lice pres­ence on trans­port and at key sites will again be en­hanced, said the mayor.

In a state­ment, he said: “Our city ut­terly con­demns the hideous in­di­vid­u­als who at­tempt to use ter­ror to harm us and de­stroy our way of life.

“As Lon­don has proven again and again, we will never be in­tim­i­dated or de­feated by ter­ror­ism.” Life, he in­sisted, must go on. Lon­don­ers will agree with that.

The burn­ing re­mains of the time-bomb left on the Tube train. It in­jured more than 20 but the main shrap­nel-packed de­vice failed to detonate spar­ing many more

The de­vice, left, ap­peared not to have fully det­o­nated but was in­stead left burn­ing and smok­ing near a car­riage exit. Right, a woman with her head ban­daged is as­sisted by a po­lice of­fi­cer at Par­sons Green sta­tion. Sev­eral vic­tims were re­ported to have suf­fered burns, far right bot­tom, and were treated by medics. Oth­ers were hurt in the stam­pede that fol­lowed the blast, far right top

Pas­sen­gers are helped from the train by emer­gency ser­vices, above. The streets around Par­sons Green Tube sta­tion were sealed off, be­low left, by po­lice, fire crews and anti-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cers

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