Islamic State claims London Tube attack, UK terror threat level raised to ‘critical’
London: Prime Minister Theresa May announced the UK terror threat level has been raised to “critical” — its highest possible designation — as police hunt for a suspect who set off an improvised bomb on a packed London commuter train.
The joint terrorism analysis center came to the decision independently, and “their assessment is that further attacks may be imminent,” May said in a recorded statement.
At least 22 people were injured in Friday’s blast, which caused what witnesses described as a flash or a fireball. Officials said the device had been designed to wreak even greater damage.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State terror group. “The bombing on a metro in London was carried out by a detachment of the Islamic State,” it said in a statement published by its Amaq propaganda agency.
May said earlier that the device was “intended to cause serious harm.” Sky News broadcast images of a small fire in a bucket with protruding wires and said the device, which had a timer, had probably failed to detonate fully.
“There is a manhunt underway,” Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told LBC radio. Police appealed for images and information from the public and said no arrests had been made.
After the explosion at Parsons Green station in west London, passengers were caught in a stampede as they tried to flee. Ambulances rushed people to hospital, although the injuries weren’t life-threatening with most suffering what police called “flash burns.”
US President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the “loser terrorist” was “in the sights of Scotland Yard,” a reference to the headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
“I never think it’s helpful for anyone to speculate on what’s an ongoing investigation,” May said when asked in a pooled broadcast interview about Trump’s intervention. In a phone call, she complained directly to Trump about his comments, according to a UK government official familiar with the conversation.
In an apparent US leak, CBS reported that the explosives were consistent with those used in another recent attack. The US and UK have close intelligence-sharing ties and the UK has publicly criticized US leaks of police intelligence after previous attacks.
The attack is the fifth this year in the UK and Londoners are growing used to the sight of armed police patrolling the transport network. Police said on Thursday that terrorism-related arrests had risen 68% over the past year.
The terror threat level was raised to “critical” on 23 May after the bomb attack in Manchester, but lowered on 27 May to “severe,” the second-highest, meaning an attack is likely.
Earlier this year assailants with vans and knives attacked passers by on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge in two separate strikes and a van was driven into worshippers outside a mosque in Finsbury Park. A suicide bomber attacked a concert venue in Manchester in May, killing more than 20 people including children and mothers. Most of the attacks have been claimed or praised by Islamic State. No one has claimed Friday’s explosion.
Witnesses described a fireball after the device detonated and passengers standing nearby had their hair, faces and hands burned.
“There was a massive flash and flame that went up the side of the train, then an acrid chemical smell, then a big stampede,” Chris Wildish, a witness, told Sky News. ”The crush for the stairs was pretty heavy.”
Medical staff declared a major incident at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, as TV footage showed images of injured passengers with bandages on their heads. Bloomberg
(PTI contributed to this story)