U.K. cops arrest man in London subway attack
Authorities said the 29 injured in Friday’s bombing largely suffered from flash burns
LONDON — Following a fast-moving investigation and manhunt, British police on Saturday morning arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the attack on the London subway that injured at least 29 people in what police called a terrorist incident.
Authorities said the man has been arrested by Kent police in the port area of Dover on the English Channel.
Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu called the operation a “significant arrest.” He said the investigation is ongoing.
The man is being held for questioning under the Terrorism Act. “For strong investigative reasons we will not give any more details on the man we arrested at this stage,” Basu said.
A homemade bomb exploded on a London subway train at Parsons Green station Friday morning, sending a scorching blast of flame and smoke through a London subway car.
On Saturday morning, security measures remained tightened across London’s vast mass-transit network, and the government described the threat level as critical, meaning another attack could be imminent.
British media reported that the crude explosive device, carried in a bucket and shoved into a shopping bag, had a timer, suggesting that some degree of bombmaking knowledge was employed.
The Islamic State terrorist group asserted responsibility for the explosion on its Amaq News Agency website. Experts cautioned that the group often seeks credit for attacks it may have only inspired, as well as ones it had nothing to do with.
The explosion on London’s Tube is bound to rekindle pointed debate about whether countries such as Britain have been tough enough in fighting terrorism. Just hours after the blast, President Donald Trump suggested that Britain needed to be “more proactive.” Shortly after, Prime Minister Theresa May retorted that such criticism was not helpful.
“This was a device intended to cause significant harm,” May said, but it remained unclear whether the explosive may have detonated prematurely or malfunctioned at the Parsons Green station, about three miles southwest of central London.
It was not certain whether the bomber was among those hurt or was now on the run. In a sign that a manhunt could be mobilized, London police appealed to the public to submit cellphone images taken at the scene. British media said that investigators had images of a suspect from closedcircuit television. The homemade device blew up on the inbound train, nine stops from Westminster, the seat of the British government.
After the attack, 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!”
It was unclear whether Trump had been briefed by his security advisers and knew something of the identity of the assailants. At the time, neither the London police nor the British government had said anything publicly beyond describing the detonation as a suspected terrorist attack.
Following Trump’s tweets, and without mentioning the American president by name, May said that it’s not “helpful for anybody to speculate on … an ongoing investigation.”
Later, during a brief appearance outside the White House, Trump further hammered a hardline message, saying: “We have to be very smart and we have to be very, very tough — perhaps we’re not nearly tough enough.”
Trump later called May to “convey his sympathies and prayers for those injured” and “pledged to continue close collaboration” with Britain to stop such attacks worldwide.
During a tumultuous election campaign that was interrupted by two terrorist attacks, the British prime minister repeatedly promised harsh new measures. May vowed that “if human rights laws get in the way” of protecting Britain, she would change those laws.
At the time, experts wondered whether May’s tough talk could be matched by more action in a country considered one of the world’s most proactive on counterterrorism.
“The threat is now so diffuse that it is unclear how those measures could be more effectively used to prevent future attacks,” said Raffaello Pantucci, director of the International Security Studies group at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “One of the few possibilities would be to impose harsher sentences for terror-related offenses, and that is certainly something being considered.”
Shortly after the explosion, the right-wing, populist U.K. Independence Party tweeted, “Thank goodness nobody serious hurt at #ParsonsGreen but we cannot rely on jihadist incompetence.”
Authorities said the injured suffered from flash burns. Emergency services said none of those hurt had life-threatening injuries.