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Islamic State claims London train blast, UK terror threat level 'critical'

Armed police and sniffer dogs could be seen on the train and around the station, which is set in a leafy suburb of southwest London popular with well-off commuters and filled with chic cafes
Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (AFP)
Police and security services are undertaking a manhunt for the perpetrators

The Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for planting an apparent improvised explosive device that blew up on a London Undergound train on Friday, leaving twenty-nine people in hospital.

The declaration came just moments before UK prime minister Theresa May announced the national terror threat level would be upped to the highest possible category, critical, which means "an attack is expected imminently". She added that troops would be deployed to key locations in the capital.

The improvised bomb, which appeared to be fashioned inside a bucket carried in a supermarket freezer bag, exploded at the rear of a train at Parsons Green station in west London on Friday morning local time.

In an initial statement posted by its propaganda arm Amaq, IS said a "detachment" of its group planted the device.

The group later released a longer statement claiming they had placed "several explosive devices" and had only detonated one of them on Friday, wounding "30 Crusaders". The communique added that "what is coming is more devastating and bitter," according to a translation by the SITE intelligence group. 

Twenty-nine people were sent to four hospitals in the area, the National Health Service said, mainly suffering from "flash burns," with no serious injuries reported.

Witnesses described a "wall of flames" followed by a stampede from the carriage and a smell similar to burning plastic.

A massive manhunt is now underway for those behind the blast, the latest in a string of terror attacks targeting Britain this year, most of which were claimed by IS, who have been battered on multiple fronts on their home turf in Syria and northern Iraq.

Adrian DENNIS (AFP)

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said in a press conference that their investigation is making "excellent progress".

He said the police force has been granted an extra 1000 armed officers from the military. 

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said he requested permission from ministers to use members of the military for armed police duty.

He said it meant he had an extra 1000 armed police available to him, "hundreds of police officers are trawling through CCTV" and that images sent in by the public were also being analyzed. 

The device is being examined by forensic experts, he added. 

Scotland Yard is treating the incident as a terror attack, and Britain's domestic security service, MI5, is also involved in the probe, the BBC reported, saying "hundreds" of detectives have been assigned the hunt.

Police have obtained images of the person who carried the device onto the train from security camera footage, Sky News reported.

In televised remarks after the meeting, May called the attack "cowardly" and said that the UK threat level would remain at severe, adding that her government needs to do more to tackle the root causes of terrorism.

The UK's threat level was also raised to 'critical' in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack in the city of Manchester that killed twenty-two people.

Read more: Police confirm IED used in 'terrorist' attack on London train, 22 hospitalized

Read more: Witnesses describe 'wall of fire', stampede as explosion hits London train

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