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Asharq Al-Awsat exclusive: Face to Face with Terror | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Aras Louis (Asharq Al-Awsat Photo)

Aras Louis (Asharq Al-Awsat Photo)

Aras Louis (Asharq Al-Awsat Photo)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Aras Louis, a 42-year-old Iraqi Kurd living in London saw his life flash before his eyes when he found himself in the proximity of a would-be bomber on an underground train between Stockwell and Oval, on Thursday morning. A resident in Britain since 1999, Louis is still in shock after the few minutes he spent a few meters away from the terrorist and his backpack filled with explosives that, fortunately, failed to detonate.

In a telephone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat, Louis said, “I boarded the second train carriage of a northbound Northern Line train around midday on Thursday on my way to college.” A few minutes later, as the train sped through the tunnel, “I heard a loud bang, coming from no more than 2 meters away from my seat. I looked in the direction of the explosion and saw a man with a dark complexion carrying a large bag, next to the doors, close to the front carriage. On the ground, I could see white foam and black smoke coming from beside him.” The survivor added, “Seconds later, as women and children were screaming, panicking passengers started running towards other carriages. I was the only one left in the carriage, along with another English looking man and the bomber.”

Asked about the physical appearance and the voice of the bomber, Louis told Asharq Al Awsat, “His picture will remain engraved in my mind for a long time to come”, adding, “The bomber is aged between 18 and 20. He is of Somali origin, because his distinct facial features and accent reminded me of other Somalis I know in London.” After the bomb failed to explode, the suspected terrorist “seemed petrified and very confused”. Louis and the other passenger screamed at him, asking him what he had done. “He answered back with a barely audible whisper, “Nothing… Do not worry… Nothing…”” Louis remembered, “Pleading with the bomber to stop, afraid our lives were in danger. He believes the dark skinned man was a “terrorist supporter, someone who lacked the adequate training to detonate his bomb and any other devices he had on him.”

A few minutes “that felt like years” elapsed before the train reached Oval station, “where the terrorist was the first to run out of the carriage and unto the platform. He escaped.” Louis and the other passenger followed him out of the train. He said, “I don’t know why I didn’t grab him and hand him in to the police. I’ve been feeling really guilty and have been unable to sleep because I let him go.” Reflecting on his experience on Thursday, Louis said, “I have witnessed horrible events in a war zone. I am from Halabjah and have taken part in combat and seen people die right in front of my eyes.” Thursday, however, was different; “I have never seen a terrorist attack innocent civilians. This might explain why I was so scared and unable to catch him.”

Louis confirmed that fear from additional explosions was probably one of the reasons he did not get too close to the bomber. He added that his body was paralyzed with fear in those fateful minutes, making him almost forget about the bag left behind. “I saw it on television and remembered it vividly. Only then did I realize that it was filled with other bombs that failed to detonate for one reason or another. The bomber left it behind as he escaped.” Louis gave a detailed account of his experience to the security forces at the scene, only a few minutes after staring death in the face.