An 18-year-old man was arrested by British police in the city of Dover in connection with Friday's rush hout "terrorist" bombing of a London subway train, calling the arrest “significant” but warned that the country’s threat level remained at its highest, "critical" point.
“We have made a significant arrest in our investigation this morning. Although we are pleased with the progress made, this investigation continues and the threat level remains at critical,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said.
It was unclear if the man arrested was the person believed responsible for the attack, which has been classified as terrorism. Late on Friday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the improvised bomb attack via its news agency, Amaq, saying it was carried out by a “detachment.” There was no independent indication of the group’s role. In another separate statement, Islamic State said it had deployed several explosives but only one detonated. That too couldn’t be independently verified.
The man was arrested in the port area of the city, a major hub for ferry transport between the U.K. and France. Authorities have been urgently tracking down leads in the attack, searching through security camera footage and other information.
“The 18-year-old man was arrested by Kent Police in the port area of Dover this morning, Saturday, 16 September, under section 41 of the Terrorism Act,” police said in a statement. The man remains in custody at a local police station. He will be transferred to a south London police station in due course.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Basu added trhat “this arrest will lead to more activity from our officers. For strong investigative reasons we will not give any more details on the man we arrested at this stage.” He gave no further details on the arrest “for strong investigative reasons.” “Although we are pleased with the progress made, this investigation continues and the threat level remains at critical,” he said.
According to the Guardian, investigators believe the suspect may have been in the port area of Dover to try and board a ferry to leave Britain.
Islamic State are believed to have identified security at Dover and on the ferries as weak, and have used the port in Kent to get people in and out of Britain previously.
In the Friday morning bombing, a homemade device partially exploded on a train at the Parsons Green station in West London, injuring 29 people and sending people screaming in panic. A photo posted on social media showed personal belongings and a bucket with an item on fire inside on the floor of a train carriage. Police have spoken to 45 witnesses and have received 77 images and videos from the public, Mr. Basu said.
The improvised explosive device, which partially detonated at around 8:20am on Friday, was believed by police and the security services to have been intended to kill. It was detonated by a timer. The timing device used was not a mobile phone, which has been used in previous terrorist attacks to trigger a bomb. The device at Parsons Green contained fairy lights, which may have been used as an initiator, to set off the main explosive charge.
As reported previously, late on Friday, Theresa May said the threat of a terrorist attack in the country had been raised to critical, the highest level on a five-rung scale. Mrs. May said the change in the threat level means security officials’ assessment was “that a further attack may be imminent.” The last time the threat assessment was raised to such a level was in May, when police suspected the suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a pop concert in the northwestern British city of Manchester may have had an accomplice. Police reduced its terrorism-threat level back to severe less than a week after the attack after making arrests.
Police have stepped up security in the wake of the attack and extra armed officers were deployed.
“There will be an increased police presence across London today and over this weekend, including additional armed officers. They are there to keep us safe,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said. “London will never be intimidated by terrorism. We will always defeat those who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life,” he said.