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UK police: Latest bombers failed




Great Britain

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two weeks to the day after the July 7 London bombings, attackers tried -- and failed -- to set off explosive devices at three Tube stations and on a double-decker bus.

Police said evidence left behind in Thursday's attempted bombings has given them what may be a "significant breakthrough" in their investigation.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair told reporters the intention of the terrorists "must have been to kill" and that some of the devices failed to explode.

There are reports of one person wounded, although ambulance services said they did not transport anyone from the scenes.

Blair said investigators were analyzing forensic material found at the sites "which may be very helpful to us."

Police took two men into custody after the blasts, including one man arrested near the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.

He was released without charge early Friday, while the first man, who was arrested two stops away from the Warren Street station, was released a few hours earlier.

Police urged anyone with photos or video from mobile phones from around the time of the incidents to e-mail them to investigators.

Blair said while the near-simultaneous attacks had echoes of the ones two weeks ago that killed 52 people and the four bombers -- also on three Tube trains and a bus -- it was too early to say whether they bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

He stressed that the investigation was still at an early stage and cautioned against the "enormous amount of speculation" concerning the incidents.

The police chief confirmed there were four scenes -- at Oval, Warren Street and Shepherd's Bush Underground stations and on a bus in east London -- where "attempts have been made to set off explosive devices."

He told a news conference in central London: "Clearly the intention must have been to kill. You do not do this with another intention.

"I think the important thing is that the intentions of the terrorists have not been successful."

All three Tube stations were evacuated and the three affected lines -- Hammersmith & City, Victoria, and Northern -- were closed along with the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines.

Police also said they deployed armed officers to investigate an "incident" at University College Hospital, near Warren Street, where an explosive device went off aboard a train.

The central London hospital confirmed the situation there was over, although it is not clear what prompted the alert.

Witnesses reported policemen with flak jackets entered the hospital along with dogs, and said police searched a man with a red backpack and took him away, without handcuffs.

People in buildings near the hospital were not allowed to leave their offices during the incident.

At a news conference, Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the police operation and urged Londoners to remain calm.

"We know why these things are done. They're done to scare people and to frighten them, to make them anxious and worried," he said.

The prime minister, who referred questions on operations to police and emergency services, told reporters: "Police and security services are pretty clear about what's happened.

"The police have done their very best and the security services, too, in this situation. And I think we just have got to react calmly and continue with our business as much as possible as normal."

Blair appeared with visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who praised the resolve and bravery of the British people.

Amid the massive security alert across the British capital, armed police were seen on television drawing their guns near Blair's official Downing Street residence as they detained a man. There was no indication the man was linked to the blasts.

In the United States, the White House said President George W. Bush was informed of the incidents. (Full story)

Bus 'bang'

News of the incidents first came at 12:38 p.m. (7:38 a.m. ET). At 12:45 p.m., a call came in from Warren Street.

The area around Warren Street station was sealed off while the bomb squad checked for further explosive devices.

Authorities pushed people back from the station, and witnesses reported seeing men in chemical suits going down into the station.

Police later said after initial checks that no trace of chemical agents was found at any of the stations.

Meanwhile in east London, a bus driver reported a "bang" from the top of his double-decker in Hackney, according to the bus company's spokesman.

The spokesman said the windows of the bus were blown out, although this was denied by a police officer at the scene.

"I have seen the bus. There were no windows blown out," the officer told Reuters.

At Oval station there were reports of a man dumping a rucksack in a carriage then fleeing as the doors closed.

A witness told Sky News he heard a sound "like champagne popping" then passengers erupting in panic. (Witness accounts)

"As far as I know from what a lady at the top of the escalator was saying, someone came into the carriage, dumped the bag and ran out. Some people tried to stop him but he ran out."

He said: "I was in the carriage next to the one where the bag was. All of a sudden there was a popping, it sounded like champagne popping. I didn't think anything of it at the time but then I heard a lot of shouting from the next door carriage.

"People started saying, 'Smoke, smoke.' One of the train guys came through and said 'Get off the train, we're evacuating, everyone out.'

"As we were walking past the carriage we could see the bag sitting on the chair. It was a big, black rucksack, like the backpack-type ones that you get.

"When they got upstairs, people were really distressed, one lady was crying."

Three small rooms in an unoccupied part of University College Hospital remained cordoned off Thursday night, the UK's Press Association reported.

In a statement the hospital said: "Police have confirmed that there is no danger to patients or staff.

"Armed police conducted a search of the hospital this afternoon following the terrorist incident at Warren Street tube station and this search has now been completed.

"Three small rooms in an unoccupied part of the hospital have been cordoned off and police inquiries are still continuing.

"We are canceling routine appointments and surgery tomorrow for patients not already in the hospital."

One explosives expert told CNN the "sour smell" reported by people coming out of the Underground would likely have come from two sources: a rucksack catching fire; and explosives themselves catching fire after a detonator failed to explode them. The explosives could actually burn and give a toxic smell.

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