LONDON – The UK terror threat has been increased to its highest level following the attack on a Tube train in south-west London, the prime minister has said.
Theresa May said the threat had been raised from severe to critical, meaning an attack is expected imminently.
An “improvised explosive device” was detonated at Parsons Green station on a District Line train from Wimbledon in south-west London during Friday’s morning rush hour, Scotland Yard has confirmed.
The blast, at Parsons Green station on a District Line train from Wimbledon, is being treated as terrorism.
A hunt is under way for the person who placed the bomb, with so-called Islamic State saying it was behind the attack.
Mrs May said the military would be providing support to police and would replace them on guard duties at certain sites which are not accessible to the public.
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.”
Twenty-nine people have been treated in hospitals, mostly for burns, though at least eight have now been discharged.
Specialist officers have been securing the remains of the improvised device and ensuring it is stable.
Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “cowardly” attack, which she said had “intended to cause significant harm”.
Speaking in Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, she said there would be an increased armed police presence on the transport network in London.
Hundreds of detectives and MI5 are investigating the attack, which took place at 08:20 BST on an eastbound train.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley earlier refused to say whether anyone had been arrested.
Pictures taken of the train show a white bucket on fire inside a supermarket bag, with wires trailing on to the carriage floor. The BBC understands the device had a timer.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the bomb appeared not to have gone off.
Had it worked as intended, it would have killed everyone around it and maimed everyone in the train carriage for life, he said.
US President Donald Trump has spoken to Prime Minister Theresa May to convey his sympathies for those injured in the terrorist attack, the White House has said.
President Trump pledged to continue close collaboration with the UK to stop attacks and combat extremism, the statement added.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “President Trump called the prime minister earlier today to offer his condolences over this morning’s cowardly attack in London.”
US President Donald Trump had earlier tweeted that the “sick and demented” people behind the attack had been in the sights of the Metropolitan Police, prompting Mrs May to say it was not helpful to “speculate” on an ongoing investigation.
helsea and Westminster Hospital has been treating 14 people, with a “small number” of them being taken to its specialist burns unit.
Four people are being treated by Imperial College Healthcare and three at St George’s Hospital. St Thomas’ Hospital in London said it had treated eight patients but they had now been discharged.
Mr Rowley asked the public to remain “vigilant”, but said they should “not be alarmed”.
He said anyone who took pictures or videos at the scene could upload them to ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan appealed for calm, saying the city would “never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism”.
Witnesses to the incident have described seeing at least one passenger with facial injuries, while others spoke of “panic” as alarmed passengers left the train at the station, which is above ground.
Anna Gorniak, who was in the same Tube carriage as the explosion, said: “I could see a fireball filling the carriage and coming our way. At that moment, I started to run.
“In my mind I was praying, I probably thought for a second, ‘That’s it, my life is over.’”
Passenger Peter Crowley was sitting in the carriage, travelling from Wimbledon, when the explosion happened.
He said his head was burned by a “really hot intense fireball above my head” and added: “There were people a lot worse than me.”
Chris Wildish told BBC Radio 5 live he saw a bucket in a supermarket bag with “low-level flames coming out of it” by the door of the rear carriage.
This is the fifth terrorism incident of 2017 in which an attack has taken place. It’s the only one this year in which nobody has died. The previous four saw 36 people killed.
Police believe they have stopped six other significant plots – all of which will soon be coming before the courts.
Put plainly, this is the most sustained period of terrorist activity in England since the IRA bombing campaign of the early 1970s.
Experts from the government’s secret explosives research laboratory will be looking at the evidence from the train and seeing whether it matches anything else they have seen before.