Monday 20 August 2018

Man held over UK tube bomb

Armed police search foster home, run by MBE foster couple, as they look for answers to the rush-hour train attack, writes Kate Holton

On patrol: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (centre) joins officers on Westminster Bridge in central London, as Operation Temperer is relaunched after security experts warned another terrorist attack could be imminent. Photo: PA Wire
On patrol: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (centre) joins officers on Westminster Bridge in central London, as Operation Temperer is relaunched after security experts warned another terrorist attack could be imminent. Photo: PA Wire

Kate Holton

British police arrested an 18-year-old man yesterday in the southern port of Dover in a "significant" development in the hunt for the culprits behind a London commuter train bombing that injured 30 people a day earlier.

UK prime minister Theresa May put Britain on the highest security level of "critical" late last Friday, meaning further attacks may be imminent. She also relaunched Operation Temperer which deployed soldiers and armed police to secure strategic sites and hunt down the perpetrators.

In the fifth major terrorism attack in Britain this year, the home-made bomb shot flames through a packed commuter train during the Friday morning rush hour in west London, but apparently failed to detonate fully. The militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility.

"We have made a significant arrest in our investigation this morning," said Neil Basu, Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing. "This arrest will lead to more activity from our officers," he said yesterday, suggesting there could be more arrests and house raids to come.

"For strong investigative reasons we will not give any more details on the man we arrested at this stage."

The arrest was made in the port area of Dover, where passenger ferries sail to France.

The Tube bomb was attached to a timer, unlike recent blasts which have typically been suicide bombs. Pictures showed a slightly charred white plastic bucket with wires coming out of the top in a supermarket shopping bag on the floor of a train carriage. The Parsons Green station where the attack took place had reopened by yesterday morning.

Following the Dover arrest, police raided the home of two respected foster carers, in their hunt for the bomb factory used by the Parsons Green bomber.

Police officers were later seen searching bins close to Dover Priory railway station a few minutes' walk from the port. The arrest location, close to the busiest ferry hub in Europe, raises the prospect the suspect could have been attempting to leave the country. Five hours later armed police arrived at an address in Sunbury on Thames, south- west London, and began evacuating residents from surrounding homes.

The elderly owners of the property, Penelope and Ronald Jones, are a foster couple who have taken in hundreds of young people since 1970, including refugees from several countries. In 2009, Mr and Mrs Jones were appointed MBEs for services to children and families. The honour was presented to them by the Queen at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Mrs Jones, 71, and her husband, 88, said at the time: "We open our hearts to all the children. Anybody that comes to us we will do whatever we can to help them with whatever they need." Their home is 11 miles from Parsons Green and on the overground rail line to Wimbledon, which is on the District Line. The couple were unavailable for comment.

A neighbour who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Three months ago they fostered a lad from Somalia. My mate said he's 16, but I'd say he was older than 18 that they are reporting. He's been nothing but problems for them - he kept running away and stuff."

Yesterday in London, armed police patrolled the streets near government departments in Westminster and guarded Premier League soccer grounds hosting matches.

In the entertainment district on the south bank of the Thames, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Britain's top police officer, sought to reassure the public as she joined colleagues patrolling the area.

"Yesterday we saw a cowardly and indiscriminate attack which could have resulted in many lives being lost," she said. "London has not stopped after other terrible attacks and it will not stop after this one."

The last time Britain was put on "critical" alert was after a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including children, at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May.

The threat level remained at the highest setting for four days while officers raced to establish if the man had worked alone or with the help of others.

Prior to that, it had not been triggered since 2007.

The bomb struck as passengers were travelling to the centre of the British capital. Some suffered burns and others were injured as passengers rushed to escape from the station, one of the above-ground stops on the underground network.

With Britain on high alert after a spate of attacks this summer, witnesses recalled their horror.

"I was on the second carriage from the back. I just heard a kind of 'whoosh'," Ola Fayankinnu, who was on the train, said. "I looked up and saw the whole carriage engulfed in flames making its way towards me.

"There were phones, hats, bags all over the place and when I looked back I saw a bag with flames."

The Isil militant group has claimed other attacks in Britain this year, including two in London and the pop concert in Manchester.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard and Theresa May rebuked US President Donald Trump over his claim the Parsons Green Tube bomber was "in the sights" of Scotland Yard.



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