Up to 4 terrorists on run after Londoners cheat death
• Four bombs placed on underground network and bus, but fail to explode
• Events come 2 weeks after prior attacks on London
• No deaths, and a nearby passenger suffering an asthma attack is only injury
"London has gone past this point again. We are back to business. The emergency services of London have done a marvellous job. We asked the public to stay where they are. Now is the time to get London moving in an orderly sense again, avoiding the scenes."- SIR IAN BLAIR, METROPOLITAN POLICE
Story in full POLICE were last night hunting the al-Qaeda terrorists who fled after yesterday's failed London bomb attacks, and sources close to the investigation said they were confident the men would be caught within the next 72 hours.
Detectives believe at least four bombers were involved in the attempted attacks and they are understood to be still at large. But police are certain their escape was caught on CCTV and several witnesses have already come forward with descriptions. One bomber struggled with three male passengers before fleeing up an escalator.
Early indications suggest the gang is part of the same terrorist network that launched the devastating strikes on the capital exactly two weeks ago in which 56 people died. If so, this would provide a crucial breakthrough in unravelling al-Qaeda's network in the UK.
Three of the four devices are thought to be of a similar size and weight to the bombs used in the attacks in the city on 7 July. The fourth was smaller and appears to have been contained in a plastic box.
It is understood that an initial examination of the devices has shown they contained constituents that appear similar to the explosives found in a bath at a property in West Yorkshire.
Four bombs were planted on three Tube trains and a bus, like the 7 July attacks. But this time, all failed to fully explode and only one bystander was "injured" - said to have suffered an asthma attack.
It is believed that with three of the devices, the detonators went off but the bomb failed to explode. On the fourth, it is thought that the detonator itself failed.
The failure of the bombs to detonate meant that passengers, already on edge after the previous attacks, had a chance to fight back. Passenger Herren Patel said one of the bombers threw a bag on to his train at the Oval. "Other people tried to stop him, but he fled," he said.
One woman described how a man was chased from the Oval Tube station after leaving a bag there. "He did a runner. Someone tried to stop him because they had seen that he had thrown a bag, but apparently this man was too big and didn't get stopped," she said. A florist and a police officer were reported to have chased a suspect through a park near the station.
Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said it had been "another difficult day" for the city.
Reports of an explosion came at 12:38pm when ambulances were called to the Oval Underground station on the Northern Line and the station was evacuated. At 12:45pm, ambulances were called to Warren Street station on the Northern and Victoria lines; it was also evacuated.
Shepherd's Bush station was evacuated at 12:25pm, and at 1:42pm police were called to an explosion on a number 26 bus in Hackney Road, east London.
But it quickly became clear that the attacks had failed to go as planned. On the bus, the driver reported hearing a bang and he went upstairs to discover a few windows were broken.
Victoria Line passenger Ivan McCracken was in the middle carriage of the Warren Street train when the explosion happened.
"A man was carrying a rucksack and the rucksack suddenly exploded. It was a minor explosion but enough to blow open the rucksack.
"The man then made an exclamation as if something had gone wrong. At that point, everyone rushed from the carriage."
Another Warren Street passenger, Tammie Landau, was on the Victoria Line train heading for Euston when people started running through the carriage. "They had to smash through the train to get to the end," she said. "By the time I got out, I was scared. Everybody rushed out and someone said 'duck down'."
Stagecoach, the operator of the number 26 bus, said it had left Waterloo and was in Shoreditch when its driver heard a bang at about 1:30pm.
"When he went upstairs to investigate, the windows on the upper deck were blown out. The bus is structurally intact and we don't have any reports of injuries," a spokesman said.
The situation was confused for a while. Streets were cordoned off by white police tape around each of the sites. Later, an armed police unit entered University College Hospital, near Warren Street. There were reports that the officers were looking for a man with a blue shirt with wires sticking out of it. Officers asked employees to look for a black or Asian male.
An arrest at Downing Street and an incident at a hospital were "entirely unconnected" to the attacks, police later said.
Police are in no doubt that yesterday's bombers intended to stage a repeat of the events two weeks earlier, but that they had failed dramatically. "At each of these scenes, an attempt has been made to set off an explosive device," Sir Ian said. "There can be only one intention here, and that is to kill. This time, the intention of the terrorists has not been fulfilled."
Yesterday's attacks involved smaller devices than the original outrage, but there was a growing belief last night that both attempts were linked.
Sir Ian said it would take "a little time" to make a solid connection, but he described the attacks as "a very worrying development" and added: "In one way, it would appear to be a repetition of two weeks ago."
Police were optimistic the attacks could provide a breakthrough in the investigation of the original bombings.
Sir Ian said: "There is a resonance here - there were four attacks and there were four attacks before."
He went on: "We have visited all the scenes and we have recovered quite a lot of material, which is very helpful to us.
"We have tested for CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents] and there is nothing of that nature."
Detectives investigating the attacks are working on the basis that the bombs were not properly primed, sources said. That could explain eyewitness accounts of suspects fleeing the scene of at least some of the blasts.
But Sir Ian remained cautious. He said it was "not clear how many people had taken part" in yesterday's attacks.
After the 7 July bombings, he was quick to say they bore all the hallmarks of the al-Qaeda terror network, but yesterday he would only say: "We can all see that the attacks have a similar pattern to the previous one."
He said police would not automatically assume that Islamic terrorists were involved. He said it was not Muslims that were behind the attack, but criminals. "These are criminal acts and we are in pursuit of a set of criminals," he said.
Despite that assertion, officers on the ground appeared to be taking a different tack.
Ahmed Laarbi, a cleaner at Victoria Station, said he was grabbed by officers outside Warren Street Tube station moments after the explosion and taken into a side street to be searched and questioned.
"I feel very bad. The police took me round the corner. They were asking what was my name, what was I doing here. But I'm like every citizen, I'm like everyone," he said. "They wanted to see what was in my bag, what I was doing here."
Asked why he thought he had been picked out, he replied: "I'm black, I'm Muslim." But he stressed that he was as opposed to the attacks as anyone else. "These people doing this are no good. I'm not happy. I live in this country, this is my country too," he said.
Much of the transport network in the city was up and running again by last night, although there were still extensive delays and some stations remained closed.
Sir Ian said: "London has gone past this point again. We are back to business. The emergency services of London have done a marvellous job. We asked the public to stay where they are. Now is the time to get London moving in an orderly sense again, avoiding the scenes.
"The trains are running, the buses are running. It's now time to move into London coping with this incident. The situation is under control, in as good a position as we could possibly be, given the fact that we have had these four attempts at causing serious explosions in London. We only have one confirmed casualty and that's not a fatality," he said.
In New York, the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced that police would begin conducting random searches of packages and backpacks carried by people entering the city's subway system.
But Transport for London, which runs the British capital's bus and transport network, rejected such measures.
Spokesman Steve Taylor said it would be impractical to check bags, or to install airport-style metal detectors and X-ray machines in a Tube network that carries three million passengers a day, or a bus system that carries six million daily.
Ken Livingstone, the London mayor, said the attacks were not unexpected. "It is not surprising that we have had another attempt to take life rapidly after the first attacks," he said.
"Those people whose memories stretch back to the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties will remember there were horrifying bombing campaigns in London. We got through that and we'll get through this."
He made a plea that anyone who had seen anything over the last few days that could help the authorities to identify the attackers should come forward.
The appeal was made to the general public and to religious leaders, asking them to speak to their congregations and to think of the morality of what has happened.
He said that they should help even if there is "a remote possibility" that their coming forward will help the police to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.
Many Londoners just got on with what they were doing. Away from the cordoned-off areas people sat outside pubs and shops remained open.
Meanwhile, the stock market appeared to have taken the attacks in its stride and the FTSE-100 closed 6.4 points higher, at 5221.6.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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