President uses explosion to promote travel ban and ‘proactive’ Isis strategy
‘These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard’
Police cordon off area around Parsons Green underground station after a suspected explosion on a train in London Friday.
Friday 15 September 2017 12.49 BST Last modified on Friday 15 September 2017 14.15 BST
Donald Trump on Friday used the explosion on a London tube train, which he blamed on “loser terrorists”, to promote his travel ban and a “proactive and nasty” policy against Islamic State. The president also tweeted: “These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard.”
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When the president tweeted, no suspect had been identified or any group claimed the blast as an attack. Scotland Yard refused to be drawn on the remarks. A spokeswoman said: “It is not something we would comment on.”
There was no immediate response from the White House to questions about the basis of Trump’s assertion.
In the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing in May, British police temporarily suspended intelligence-sharing with the US, following a series of leaks to US media.
CBS disclosed the name of the bomber, Salman Abedi, citing US sources, at a time when British authorities were asking media to withhold the information to protect the investigation. The New York Times then published detailed photographs of the bomb scene which had been taken by British investigators.
On Friday, Nick Timothy, a newspaper columnist who was formerly chief of staff to prime minister Theresa May, wrote on Twitter of Trump’s remarks: “True or not – and I’m sure he doesn’t know – this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner.”
Eighteen people were taken to the hospital after the explosion, which happened at the Parsons Green station in west London and was being treated as an isolated incident. Four people took themselves to hospitals. The London Ambulance Service said: “None are thought to be in a serious or life-threatening condition.”
Trump’s intervention also carried echoes of his tweets after the London Bridge attack in June, when he criticised London mayor Sadiq Khan’s call for calm.
In a statement, Khan confirmed that the explosion was being treated as terrorism and said: “I urge all Londoners to be calm and vigilant.”
At a morning press briefing, Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said: “We now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device. As you will have seen there are reports of 18 injuries. I understand most of those to be flash burns.”
Rowley said the investigation was being led by the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism command, supported by MI5. Police officers would be deployed across the capital’s transport network, he said.
Around the time Rowley spoke, the president tweeted: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!
“Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!”
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Trump continued: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific – but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”
Trump’s travel ban against refugees and others from six majority Muslim countries is in force but not in full effect, as court challenges on constitutional grounds continue. A first version, against seven countries, was withdrawn after similar challenges.
“We have made more progress in the last nine months against Isis than the Obama Administration has made in 8 years,” Trump added. “Must be proactive & nasty!”
In London, Stephen Cowan, leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham which covers Parsons Green, told the Guardian the explosion was “being treated as a terrorist incident as you would expect, but I would stress that people should remain calm and the situation is completely under control”.
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