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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

in­dis­crim­i­nate way.”

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

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