Police in Britain say they are treating as a “terrorist incident” an explosion at the Parsons Green Underground station in the southwest of the capital, London.
Armed police rushed in response to reports on Friday of a fire on a train at the station, which was caused by detonation of improvised explosive device, according to police.
“Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the senior national coordinator for CT policing, has declared it a terrorist incident,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Friday.
Counterterrorism officers are leading the investigation into the incident at the Parsons Green station, where “a number” of people were injured.
Police say it is “too early to confirm the cause of the fire, which will be subject to the investigation that is now under way by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command”.
London Transport said services were cut along the line amid reports on social media of the station’s evacuation.
The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command are investigating after the incident at #ParsonsGreen tube station is declared a terrorist incident
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) September 15, 2017
Al Jazeera’s Sonia Gallego, reporting from London, said media accounts suggested that several people were injured but it was “unclear whether it had to do with the stampede or incident”.
“It’s rush hour in London and the stations are filled to the brim with people, so it seems like it was a chaotic scene,” she said.
“It seems to be some kind of a crude device in a plastic bag that exploded, but emergency services are still evaluating.”
Flames engulfed one carriage and raced along a train on a west London route to Parsons Green, forcing passengers to trample others as they rushed for an exit, a witness told Reuters news agency.
The man said people were trampled on when they fled the train after hearing a whoosh and seeing flames race towards them.
“I just heard a kind of whoosh. I looked up and saw the whole carriage engulfed in flames making its way towards me,” he told Reuters news agency.
He said the train was packed with people.
Mayor Sadiq Khan says London “utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life”.
Britain’s official threat level from terrorism stands at “severe,” the second-highest rung on a five-point scale, meaning an attack is highly likely.
The London Underground itself has been targeted several times in the past, notably in July 2005, when suicide bombers blew themselves up on three subway trains and a bus, killing 52 people and themselves.
Four more bombers tried a similar attack two weeks later, but their devices failed to fully explode.
Last year Damon Smith, a student, left a knapsack filled with explosives and ball bearings on a London subway train. It failed to explode.
|In this image made from video, fire raises at a southwest London subway station in London [AP]|
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies