British counterterror specialists said the bomb detonated on the London Underground on Friday could have been more deadly than the explosives used in the 7/7 attack if it had detonated properly.
Despite the crude appearance of the bomb, which was placed in a bucket inside a shopping bag, a former counterterror investigator with the Metropolitan Police Service said the explosive device was in fact quite sophisticated.
“Whoever built this was not an amateur – it has many of the hallmarks of devices used by terror groups, but the use of the timer to set off the initial part of the device is something we have not seen before in the UK,” David Videcette said, adding, “Had it gone off successfully it would have caused a huge loss of life.”
In an opinion piece for The Independent, Videcette said the bomb’s failure to detonate was likely due to a lack of testing to ensure all the parts work and not a lack of expertise on the bomb maker’s part.
“This person has researched what they’re doing and possibly been taught by someone else. They have also been able to collect all the component parts of an explosive device, assemble it, and deliver it to its target without detection by police and Security services,” he said.
He also said the placement of the bomb in a shopping bag showed those behind the bomb had a clear understanding of how to handle explosives and that the use of the bag should not be viewed as primitive.
“The device at Parsons Green has been placed in a supermarket cool bag, possibly to keep it at a low temperature and its contents stable. Again this is similar to the 7/7 bombers who bought large bags of pre-made ice to pack around their devices to ensure they stayed cool and didn’t detonate prematurely,” he said, referring to the coordinated terror attacks on London’s transportation system in July 2005, in which over 50 people were killed in one of the deadliest acts of terrorism in UK history.
Will Geddes, the head of the security firm ICP, told the Mail that the subway station where the bomb exploded was likely not the intended target.
“Unless a person knows it, it is not going to mean a great deal to you – if it was Paddington or Notting Hill, they are internationally recognized names,” he said. “I think it was more a premature detonation than anything else. This could have been a lot worse. It could have killed a significant number of people.”
The remnants of the bomb have been examined by forensic scientists, but no further details have been released.
While no one was killed in the blast, 30 people were treated at hospitals after the bomb detonated in a packed train carriage on Friday morning, in what was Britain’s fifth terror attack in six months. Only three remained in care on Saturday morning.
On Saturday, British police raided a home near London just hours after making their first arrest in the investigation of the train bombing.
An 18-year-old man was detained at Dover port, one of the country’s main links to Europe, with officers describing the development as a significant step in their investigation.
They later announced that the raid was under way.
“Police officers have evacuated and are searching a residential address in Sunbury, Surrey,” a statement said.
Police in Dover said the teenager arrested on Saturday would be transferred to custody in London.
“This arrest will lead to more activity from our officers,” said a statement, outlining that the man was being held under anti-terror legislation.
Friday’s bombing — claimed by the Islamic State terror group — led to Britain’s terror threat level being raised to critical — meaning another attack could be imminent.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced late Friday that troops — 1,000 were deployed — would take on responsibility for guarding key sites, including nuclear facilities, to free up police.
In a statement, anti-terrorism chief Mark Rowley said on Friday that officers were “chasing down suspects.”
“Somebody has planted this improvised explosive device on the Tube. We have to be open-minded at this stage about him and potential associates,” he said.
The critical alert terror warning was last used after the deadly suicide attack at Manchester Arena, also claimed by IS, in May.