London police say 18-year-old charged with attempted murder following last week’s Parsons Green bomb attack

VIDEO: REUTERS
A police officer stands guard at a police cordon near to a house in Newport, south Wales, on Sept 20, 2017.
A police officer stands guard at a police cordon near to a house in Newport, south Wales, on Sept 20, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS, AFP) – British police said on Friday (Sept 22) they had charged an 18-year-old man with attempted murder in connection with last week’s bomb attack at Parsons Green station in London, injuring 30 people. 

The Metropolitan police also charged Ahmed Hassan, 18, of Sunbury, Surrey, southern England, with explosive offences.

The teenager, who is believed to be an Iraqi orphan, lived with British foster parents in the London suburb of Sunbury. The house was one of several addresses searched by police after the attack.

The homemade bomb engulfed a train carriage in flames at the Parsons Green underground station in west London last Friday.

London’s police Commissioner Cressida Dick said it could have been much worse.

Dick, along with another senior British officer, said on Friday the pressure facing the police forces was not sustainable after last week’s incident, which was the fifth major attack this year.

Fewer officers could make it harder to prevent future attacks and it will force difficult choices about where to put police resources, they said.

Britain had previously faced four deadly incidents since March which killed a total of 36 people. 

“In the long run, if we continue with this level of threat, which is what people are predicting ... this is not sustainable for my police service,” Dick said in an interview on LBC radio.

Six men have been arrested and four remain in custody since the Parsons Green attack. “That was a very very dangerous bomb. It partially detonated, it had a large quantity of explosive and it was packed with shrapnel. So it could have been so much worse,” Dick said.

While the bombing at Parsons Green was not deadly, the aftermath of the attack still saw extra police on the streets and the threat level raised a notch to critical.

Interior minister Amber Rudd has announced an extra 24 million pounds (S$45.6 million) of funding for counter-terrorism policing following the bombing, in addition to 707 million previously announced support for 2017/2018.

But while the government has committed to increase the overall spend on counter-terrorism by 3 billion pounds, Sara Thornton, head of National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said that not enough of the budget would support frontline officers.

There are about 20,000 fewer officers than there were when Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives came to power in 2010 and Thornton said numbers were at levels last seen in 1985 despite a 10 percent rise in crime last year.

“Every time there’s a terror attack, we mobilise specialist officers and staff to respond but the majority of the officers and staff responding come from mainstream policing,” she wrote in a blog post on the NPCC website. “This puts extra strain on an already stretched service.”