LONDON—The British prime minister has slapped down President Donald Trump for his social-media hot-take on the latest terrorist attack against America’s closest foreign ally.
An improvised explosive device was placed on a packed subway train during the Friday morning rush hour, but the bomb failed to fully detonate at a West London train station. At least 22 people were injured when a fireball flashed through the Tube carriage; no one was killed.
While counterterror officers were launching a manhunt for the missing terrorist, Trump took to Twitter to suggest that detectives had already missed their chance to foil the attack. “These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard,” he wrote.
It is unclear if Trump was disclosing details of a top-secret intelligence briefing that indicated known members of a terror cell had carried out the failed attack—or whether the president was simply extemporizing with a pet theory of his own.
Theresa May, Britain’s Conservative leader, made her displeasure clear in an interview from Downing Street. Asked about Trump’s intervention, she said: “I never think it is helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”
Scotland Yard officials had already taken the highly unusual step of briefing journalists that Trump’s comments did not correspond with any information that had been shared by the British authorities. A spokesman for the police also described Trump’s words as “unhelpful.”
At around 8:20 a.m. in London (3:20 a.m. ET), a wall of flame ripped through an Underground train carriage as it pulled into Parsons Green station en route to Central London.
Commuters said they were forced to run from an explosion and some posted photographs and video on Twitter appearing to show a crude improvised explosive device still smoldering inside a budget supermarket bag.
Counterterror officers believe the homemade bomb did not fully detonate, potentially sparing dozens of lives. Witnesses said flames from the failed device nonetheless coursed through the train, injuring several people. BBC news presenter Sophie Raworth, who was on the crowded rush-hour train, said she had seen one woman being treated by paramedics with burns “from top to toe.”
Detectives who have examined CCTV footage from the five stops along the District Line before the train reached Parsons Green believe they have identified the wannabe killer who placed the device on the Tube.
Images posted by commuters showed a five-gallon white bucket that appeared to have wires or a string of lights coming out of the top. It had been placed inside a Lidl supermarket bag, which was still burning after passengers had rushed out onto the platform.
Scotland Yard said the incident had been officially declared a terrorist attack, sparking a massive manhunt for the wannabe killer who had placed the device on a packed train.
Theresa May, the prime minister, was chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee Friday morning. “My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green and emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident,” she said.
One of the passengers on the train described a “strong, acrid chemical smell” inside the carriage.
Whatever it was that sent flames shooting through the District Line train at around 8:20 a.m (3:20 a.m. ET), many passengers felt they had to run for their lives.
“I was towards the front of the rear carriage. As the train pulled into the platform there was a huge noise,” Michael Bennett, 38, told the London Evening Standard. “I wasn’t facing it at the time. I just heard a big noise and saw a shot of flames come past. I could feel it singe the back of my head.”
“I saw a woman in her sixties with quite long hair being helped on the platform. Her hair had been burned and she was being helped out.”
Richard Aylmer-Hall, 53, a media technology consultant, was also on the train at the time. “Suddenly there was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming,” he told the BBC. “There was a woman on the platform who said she had seen a bag, a flash and a bang, so obviously something had gone off.”
He said what followed was a scene of pure panic as people rushed for safety.
Robyn Frost was arriving at Parsons Green station, which is on an section of the Tube network that is above ground, when she saw the crowd running toward her.
“I walked into the station, there was blood on the floor and people running down the stairs screaming ‘Get out!’” she told the BBC. “People were coming out of the station covered in blood.”
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said information was still sketchy. “Obviously, everybody should keep calm and go about their lives in a normal way, as normal as they possibly can,” he said.