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Police thwart Iraq-style car bomb attack in central London

Police thwart Iraq-style car bomb attack in central London
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First Published: Sat, Jun 30 2007. 04 51 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Jun 30 2007. 04 51 AM IST
London: British police defused two car bombs 0n 29 June which could have caused carnage in London’s entertainment district and which counter-terrorism experts said resembled those used in Iraq.
The first explosive, found in a Mercedes parked outside a nightclub near bustling Piccadilly Circus and safely defused by a bomb squad, was powerful enough to have caused “significant injury or loss of life,” British anti-terror police chief Peter Clarke said.
The second bomb was discovered hours later in another Mercedes that had been illegally parked in the capital’s West End but had been towed to an impound lot near Hyde Park, Clarke said at a news conference.
He said both cars contained similar materials: “There was a considerable amount of fuel and gas canisters. As in the first vehicle, there was also a quantity of nails. This, like the first device, was potentially viable.”
“These vehicles are clearly linked,” he said as the hunt for the bombers continued.
Government security officials said that no suspects had been identified till late evening.
The bomb plot — Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s first security crisis — was an unsettling reminder just days before the 7 July anniversary of the London suicide bombing that killed 52 people two years ago.
Homegrown terrorism is a growing threat in Britain — all four suicide bombers in the 7 July attacks were Muslims raised in Britain — and the improvised devices found today seemed consistent with other homegrown plots that lacked the sophistication of terror cells linked to al-Qaida, a British government official said.
However, there had been no prior intelligence of planned attacks from the al-Qaida terror network, the government official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
Terror expert Paul Wilkinson said the two devices — suggesting simultaneous attacks — made it more likely that the planned attacks could be al-Qaida-linked.
The drama unfolded when police were called to Haymarket, south of Piccadilly Circus, after a man at the nightclub Tiger Tiger fell, injuring his head, prompting a call for an ambulance.
When crews arrived, they noticed smoke coming from a green Mercedes parked in front of a club, Clarke said.
Photographs showed a canister bearing the words “patio gas,” indicating it was propane, next to the car. The propane gas is of the type usually used in backyard barbecues and patio heaters. The back door was open with blankets spilling out. The car was removed from the scene after a bomb squad disabled the explosives.
Around 2:30 am, a second car parked on nearby Cockspur Street, which runs between Haymarket and Trafalgar Square, was ticketed and then towed an hour later to a lot on the upmarket Park Lane on Hyde Park’s eastern edge, Clarke said.
Police closed off Park Lane reportedly after attendants smelled gasoline.
Cell phone detonators have been used in other terror attacks, said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism researcher at the California-based RAND Corporation. He cited the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the 2002 Bali bombing, and the 2003 Jakarta bombing as attacks that used cellphone technology to set off explosions.
“We’re not talking about nuclear physics here,” he said, explaining that receiving a call completes a circuit, and that phones can be modified to serve as detonators.
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First Published: Sat, Jun 30 2007. 04 51 AM IST