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September 20, 2017

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Manhunt in London after attack as Britain raises terror threat level

LONDON - A manhunt was under way in London after a crude bucket bomb blew up in a rush-hour train and injured 29 people, prompting authorities to raise Britain's terrorist threat level to "critical."

Officers were making "excellent progress" in the investigation, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police said without naming who they were looking for.

The terrorist attack - the fifth in Britain this year - was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group via its Amaq news agency mouthpiece.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the decision had been taken to elevate the national security threat level from "severe" to "critical," the highest possible, and that the public would see more armed officers on the street and in trains.

Military personnel also will replace police guards at certain public sites, May said.

"This is a proportionate and sensible step which will provide extra reassurance and protection while the investigation progresses," she said in a televised address.

Ambulances and fire brigades rushed to Parsons Green underground station in south-west London around 8:20 am (0720 GMT) after reports of an explosion on a train.

Most of the injuries were burn-related and none of the victims are in life-threatening condition.

Photographs and videos on social media showed a bag containing a white bucket with wires hanging out of it that was partly on fire.

"Hundreds of police officers are pursuing numerous lines of enquiry, trawling through hours of CCTV footage and speaking to witnesses," Rowley said, adding that the device was being examined by forensic experts.

Detectives have so far spoken to 45 witnesses, he said.

Rowley said he would not comment on possible suspects due to the "covert" nature of the investigation and cautioned that the Islamic State often claims responsibility for attacks they have had no hand in.

Earlier Friday, the prime minister called the attack "cowardly" and said it had been intended to cause "significant harm."

International condemnation was swift, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel telling a news conference that her "thoughts are of course with those injured" and with "the British population."

UN chief Antonio Guterres also denounced the attack: "The Secretary General stands in solidarity with the people and government of the UK and hopes the perpetrator will be quickly brought to justice," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.

US President Donald Trump called May to offer his sympathies. He pledged to continue close collaboration with Britain to stop attacks worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism, the White House said in statement.

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