MANHUNT FOR TUBE BOMBER
BRITAIN is on critical terror alert with military troops set to bolster police forces as police hunt for the Parsons Green bomber.
Prime Minister Theresa May has raised the threat level to the highest possible rating, meaning another attack is expected imminently.
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 the Friday morning rush-hour.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley last night said police were “chasing down suspects” over the attack.
In a statement outside Scotland Yard, the UK’s most senior anti-terror police officer said: “Somebody has planted an improvised explosive device on the Tube – we have to be openminded at this stage about him and about potential associates.”
The Prime Minister said military personnel would replace police officers “on guard duties at certain protected sites which are not accessible to the public”.
The use of the military is believed to allow up to 5,000 troops to be deployed in support of the police.
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.”
The Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency, according to the US-based Site Intelligence.
Mrs May said: “The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) – that’s the independent organisation responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of available intelligence – has now decided to raise the national threat level from severe to critical. This means that their assessment is that a further attack may be imminent.
“Following JTAC’s decision, the police have asked for authorisation from the Secretary of State for Defence (Sir Michael Fallon) to enact part of the first phase of Operation Temperer. This is a well-established plan to provide military support to the police.”
Operation Temperer is being enacted after security experts warned another terrorist attack could be imminent.
The plan was activated for the first time on May 23 following the Manchester Arena bombing when the Prime Minister said the police had asked for military support and the request had been approved by Sir Michael.
At the time, soldiers were stationed at sites including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, allowing additional armed officers to attend events such as the FA Cup final.
Scotland Yard said the military would be working under the police’s command structure to provide “static armed guarding at key locations” which “will include Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, embassies and the Palace of Westminster. This is intended to free up armed officers to carry out patrols.”
Rita Katz, the 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 frequently declared that it was behind terrorist incidents in recent years but experts have warned their claims should be treated with caution.
The incident follows four attacks in Britain already this year.
Images emerged on social media appearing to show wires protruding from a flaming bucket inside a plastic carrier bag on the floor of a carriage.
A total of 29 patients needed hospital treatment, with a number of those hurt suffering from burns.
Witnesses described scenes of terror and panic as the blast sent a “fireball” and a “wall of flame” through the District Line service at Parsons Green station in west London.
Police suspect the explosion was sparked when an improvised explosive device was detonated, and have launched a huge counter-terrorism investigation along with MI5.
The device is being forensically examined while detectives are scouring CCTV and examining witness statements for potential leads. London Mayor Sadiq Khan told LBC radio there was “a manhunt under way”, while Scotland Yard said detectives were making “fast-time” inquiries.
Police were called at around 8.20am yesterday following reports of a fire on the District Line train as it pulled into the station. Emergency services including armed police rushed to the scene and cordoned off the station.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Once more people going about their everyday lives have been targeted in a callous and
Yesterday also saw Scotland Yard and the Prime Minister rebuke US President Donald Trump over his claim the Parsons Green Tube bomber was “in the sights” of Scotland Yard.
Scotland Yard declined to comment after US President Donald Trump tweeted: “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!”
Passengers described seeing victims covered in blood as people scrambled to evacuate the train. Commuter Peter Crowley suffered burns to his head.
“A fireball above my head has come and singed all my hair,” he told BBC News. “I’ve got burn marks on the top of my head and everyone just ran off the train – it was quite scary.”
Media technology consultant Richard Aylmer-Hall, 53, was sitting on the service bound for central London when panic unfolded at around 8.20am.
He said he saw several people injured, having apparently been trampled as they tried to escape.
He said: “I was on the Tube, we had just stopped at Parsons Green. I was on my way up from Wimbledon towards Paddington and suddenly there was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming. It was an absolutely packed, rush-hour District Line train from Wimbledon to Edgware Road.
“I saw crying women, there was lots of shouting and screaming, there was a bit of a crush on the stairs going down to the streets. Some people got pushed over and trampled on, I saw two women being treated by ambulance crews.”
Aaron Butterfield, a production manager, said he saw people “crawling over one another” in panic as they tried to get out of the station.
Chris Wildish, who was on the train, said he saw a “device” in the last carriage.
“It was a white bucket, a builder’s bucket,” he told BBC 5 live.
“Flames were still coming out of it when I saw it and it had a lot of wires hanging out of it – I can only assume it was done on purpose.”
BBC News presenter Sophie Raworth, who was at the scene, said she saw a woman on a stretcher with burns to her face and legs. She added: “Her legs are wrapped up and she has burns.”
A director of Ride Republic, an exercise studio near Parsons Green station, said armed police led an evacuation of his building. Around 15 to 20 people were rushed from a cycling spin class, he said.
He added: “We had one client come back to our studio after a class at around 8.25am and she said there had been a terrorist incident, she was quite shaken.
“Our front-of-house staff took that in and closed and locked the door. Within 10 minutes three or four police cars arrived outside the studio. A staff member went outside to check if we should leave, and then another police officer came in and said ‘we need to leave now’.”
Authorities have foiled 19 plots since the middle of 2013.
> An injured woman is assisted by a police officer close to Parsons Green station after a terror blast sent a ‘fireball’ and a ‘wall of flame’ through a packed Tube train
> A police forensic officer stands beside the train
> The crude device burns in a bag on the train
> Firefighters within the police cordon at Parsons Green