‘Bucket bomb’ injures dozens on London train
LONDON — Alex Ojeda-Sierra, 13, was on the train to school with a friend when they heard screaming and saw passengers running past.
Unknown to the boys, a bomb had exploded in another car.
“I dropped my bag and we started running,” Alex, who attends the London Oratory School, said from a wheelchair
at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where he was treated for facial bruises and sprains when he tripped in the panicky crush of fleeing commuters.
“One man fell on me and I had my legs bent backwards and my right ankle got twisted and I started screaming that I had no air,” he said.
The bomb, wrapped in a plastic grocery bag concealed in a bucket, exploded at 8:20 a.m. Friday at the height of the morning rush. The explosion and panic left 29 people injured, but none were killed.
It was the fifth terrorist attack in Britain this year and the first to hit London at its most vulnerable point — mass transit — since the 2005 bombings that killed 55.
The Islamic State asserted responsibility for the bucket bomb hours later in a message on its Amaq news site that said a “detachment” of its disciples had carried out the attack — language that suggested more than one assailant.
Prime Minister Theresa May, calling the blast a “cowardly attack,” said the national threat level had been raised to “critical,” the highest.
The bomb exploded just after the train drew into Par- sons Green, an elevated station in a quiet and affluent part of West London. It bur ned at least one passenger, who was carried away on a stretcher, and led to a stampede that injured others.
The attack revived the specter of mass casualties from terrorism on the London Underground, commonly known as the Tube, the world’s oldest subway system and one of the busiest. Though one would-be attacker tried to bomb an Underground train in 2016, the device failed to detonate.
The most recent attackers in London, and across Europe, have instead used vans and cars as weapons to crush and maim people.
The head of security on the Underground at the time of the 2005 attacks, Geoff Dunlop, said it was unsurprising that terrorism had returned to the Underground.
“You can do an awful lot to make it safer but you can never totally secure it because of the very nature of it,” said Dunlop, who left the Underground in 2013 and now works as a private security consultant. “It has to be open.”
Witnesses on the train described a tremor, a wave of heat and then a barrage of flames that quickly dissi- pated.
“The train was packed, and I was down the other side of the carriage standing up, looking at my phone and then I heard a big boom and felt this heat on my face,” said Natalie Belford, 42, a hairdresser and beautician who was on the train. “I ran for my life, but there was no way out. The doors were full of people and the carriage was too packed to move down.”
London’ s mayor, Sadiq Khan, a face of resolve after the earlier attacks, issued a defiant statement on Facebook that hinted at how terror attacks had become a new normal in the capital.
“Our city utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life,” Khan wrote. “As London has proven again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.”
Police were combing through the extensive CCTV footage that blankets all Underground stations, with particular attention to the handful of stations to the west of Parsons Green.
It was unclear by Friday night whether any possible suspects had been identified from CCTV surveillance.
Roy Ramm, a former com- mander of specialist operations at Scotland Yard, said police would be undertaking a comprehensive forensic examination of the train and the device to determine what happened.
“The police will also ask witnesses the age-old question: Did anyone see what happened?” he said. “They will be investigating what the detonation mechanism was and going through CCTV footage to see who might be behind it.”
The device did not appear to detonate properly, as the bucket, the bag and a series of wires all remained intact even after the explosion.
The suburban setting of the attack, several miles west of downtown London, sparked debate about whether the bomb had been mistaken ly detonated prematurely— or was purpose ly meant to highlight how no par t of the city is safe.
“Parsons Green is not emblematic or symbolic, and I think that will be a puzzlement for investigating officers, who will ask: Was it intended to be detonated or did it go of f there by accident?” Ramm said. “If you look at a list of target areas in London, Parsons Green would not be in the top 100.”
An injured woman is assisted by a police officer close to Parsons Green station in west London after an explosion on a packed London Underground train Friday. London’s Metropolitan Police says a fire on the London subway has been declared a “terrorist incident.”
In this aerial image made from video, emergency workers help people to disembark a train near the Parsons Green Underground Station after an explosion in London on Friday. The explosion at a train station sent commuters stampeding in panic, injuring several people at the height of London’s morning rush hour.