- Mass panic struck London yesterday after erroneous reports of shots fired.
- Police, who were braced for the worst, later found no evidence of an attack.
- They now think that two men fighting inside a station triggered the incident.
- 15 people were injured in stampedes caused by fearful people fleeing the scene.
Two men fighting on a London Underground station platform were the spark which set off a terror scare at Oxford Circus station, police have said.
Officers investigating the incident – which saw hundreds of people break into stampedes, and frenzied reports of a gunman on the loose – now believe it began with the “altercation,” which soon escalated into mass panic.
British Transport Police published two CCTV images of the men they believe were involved in the brawl at around 4.40 p.m. on Friday, saying they would like to speak with them.
Although in hindsight the incident seems trivial, it sparked sufficient panic that large numbers of people called 999, seemingly convinced they had heard shooting.
Faced with potential news of a gunman, and fearing the worst, police commanders dispatched large numbers of heavily-armed officers to the scene, in line with their terror attack protocols.
Shops on Oxford Street, heaving with shoppers hunting Black Friday deals, either evacuated or went into lockdown. People unsure of what was going on joined crowds of people running away.
Although police ultimately found no evidence of an attack, and nothing to substantiate the reports of gunshots, 15 people were hurt in the chaos.
A statement from the British Transport Police, issued around five hours after the panic began, said: “Officers believe an altercation erupted between two men on the platform.
“They would now like to speak to these two people in the CCTV images, who they believe may have information about the incident and the circumstances around the incident.
“They would also like to speak to anyone who was at the station or in the area at the time and saw or heard anything that would have caused mass evacuation.”
London has been the scene of four real terror attacks in 2017: Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, Finsbury Park, and Parsons Green.
Police have said that terror attacks are being planned with more intensity than ever before, and have a much better chance of succeeding than in the past.
The UK government’s official terror threat level is currently “severe,” the second-highest level.
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