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Terror expert: Incidents similar to earlier London blasts

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Terrorism analyst Shane Brighton

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two weeks after the London terror attacks that killed more than 50 people, apparent explosions occurred Thursday at three subway stations and on a bus in the British capital.

CNN's Nic Robertson discussed developments Thursday with terrorism analyst Shane Brighton.

ROBERTSON: Shane, you study terrorist incidents. ... What can we learn from what we've seen so far today?

BRIGHTON: Well, looking at evidence that's in front of us, there are clear continuities with the earlier incidents of this month. These are [at many sites] but simultaneous, and so the pattern is very similar.

What we seem to be getting is evidence that it's nothing like as serious. The tubes wouldn't be as crowded as they were when the bombs went off before at this time of day, and [these] also seem to be more peripheral stations.

This isn't in the heart of London in quite the same way that the other attacks were. So what exactly is happening, it's not clear. These may be devices that haven't triggered properly.

ROBERTSON: One analyst I spoke to a little earlier told me that he thought that the sour smell people were smelling could be the detonators going off. Is there a possibility here that these people had explosives, and the explosives didn't go off?

BRIGHTON: Well, it might be that the explosives have corrupted over time if they're homemade devices. Some explosives don't last that long once they're mixed.

The fact that they're using the term detonators though, specifically detonators, does indicate that this might be a serious device that we're talking about rather than something that's been hooked up at home by a real amateur.

ROBERTSON: So there is a real possibility this could have been much worse?

BRIGHTON: It could have been certainly if these were serious devices and they had gone off probably; it would have been much worse, of course.

ROBERTSON: The very fact that they didn't go off -- we're hearing these reports now of armed police going to a hospital. Could there potentially be in this live witnesses, perhaps people who may well have been the bombers who survived? Could this have happened? And how could that help police with their inquiries?

BRIGHTON: Well, we're getting partial reports that somebody may have been tackled and has been caught. Now clearly, they would be an extremely significant witness, or somebody that could be of great help in investigating what was going on.

What's not clear any way though ... is that this is the same group, or an extension of the group that launched the earlier attacks.

ROBERTSON: If the police have somebody that was involved with these bombs, what are they going to be asking them?

BRIGHTON: I think in the first instance, it depends how -- the report we've had is that they were injured in the blast or the partial blast. Depends on what state they're in. But [the police are] certainly going to be wanting to find out if there's any likelihood of an immediate threat. That's going to be the No. 1 priority -- to rule out the fact that we're going to have to deal with anything else today.

ROBERTSON: When you heard Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the [Metropolitan Police], warning there was potential for more attacks, did you take that seriously?

BRIGHTON: I think it's certainly something that had to be assumed to be the case. I think it would be complacent not to. The fact that there was more explosives found in the immediate follow-up to these devices did indicate that there's a capability over and above that that was used in the earlier attacks.

ROBERTSON: Other explosives were found as part of the investigation?

BRIGHTON: Correct, yes, they were found -- there was evidence of them in Leeds but also in a car in Luton, I believe. There was a controlled explosion and evidence of other explosives there.

ROBERTSON: Your read of today's situation -- it could have been far worse -- and in fact, there may be bigger explosives that didn't go off, but it could provide police with significant leads?

BRIGHTON: I think that's correct, yes. We could have been looking at something much worse. But on the evidence of it, it doesn't look like anything like as significant an incident as the one we experienced recently.

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