A homemade bomb sent a scorching cloud of smoke and flames through a London subway carriage Friday, injuring at least 18 rush-hour commuters and sending people scrambling for safety in what police are calling a terrorist incident.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and authorities gave no details on possible suspects, but the incident was quickly labeled a terrorist strike and security measures were tightened across London’s vast mass transit network.
British state broadcaster, the BBC, reported the device had a timer, suggesting some degree of bomb-making knowledge was used in creating the device.
The head of London Police’s counterterrorism unit, Mark Rowley, confirmed the blast was from an improvised explosive device and said the 18 injured largely suffered from flash burns at the Parsons Green station, about a mile southwest of central London.
Emergency services said none of the injured faced life-threatening conditions.
“We have hundreds of detectives involved looking at CCTV, forensic work and speaking to witnesses,” he said shortly after the attack. “This investigation will be supported by our colleagues at MI5 bringing their intelligence expertise to the case.”
Prime Minister Theresa May called a special meeting of the anti-terror Cobra committee for Friday afternoon and London police declared it a “terrorist incident.”
“My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green and emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident,” she said. Parsons Green is in trendy Fulham, a neighborhood of Victorian rowhouses, furniture designers and Championship League soccer.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned “the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life. As London has proven again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.”
A photograph on social media showed a white bucket beside a shoulder bag on fire – but little damage. The bucket was not burned.
The United Kingdom was been the target of a string of Islamist-related terrorist attacks in the last year.
A suicide bomber detonated his device in May at an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester, killing 23 people, including the assailant.
In March, a terrorist drove his vehicle into pedestrians at Westminster Bridge in London and then emerged with a knife. He killed five, including a police officer, before he was shot.
In June, three attackers used a rented van to run over people on London Bridge, before they jumped out of the vehicle and stabbed more victims in the crowded Borough Market. They killed eight people, before police shot them dead.
Police investigators concluded the attackers were radicalized and inspired by groups such as Islamic State, but that they planned the assaults on their own.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · William Booth, Karla Adam