CAR bomb explodes near London railway station, injuring six

Friday, August 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ Glass littered a west London street and smoke poured from the mangled wreck of a car early Friday after a bomb shattered a busy area of pubs and cafes and injured six people.

Police said the device, which exploded just before midnight, contained at least 88 pounds of homemade explosives. They blamed Irish Republican Army dissidents seeking to raise political temperatures in Northern Ireland at a crucial juncture in peacemaking efforts.

``This is a completely reckless terrorist attack,'' said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Fry, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch.

``This device was intended to kill or maim. We believe this attack has been carried out by Irish dissident republican terrorists,'' he added.

Fry said a vague warning was phoned to a doctor's on-call service at 11:33 p.m. The blast struck less than half an hour later as police were attempting to clear the area near the Ealing Broadway subway and railway station in west London. The blast shattered windows up to 200 yards away.

``We came out and there was a car in flames. It was just like a huge fireball in the middle of the road,'' said Samantha Illing, a local restaurant worker.

``All the glass from the shop windows just fell to the ground and people ran out of the pub,'' said 16-year-old witness Nikki Cox.

``It was just a mass of panic,'' she added.

Five men and one woman were taken to nearby Ealing Hospital, and four were admitted for treatment. Their wounds included head, chest and back injuries, a fractured shoulder blade and a dislocated shoulder.

``Everything shook and I felt the wind through my hair and the vibration,'' said 43-year-old Boo Abbass, who was eating in a nearby cafe. ``I knew immediately it must be a bomb, it was terrifying. The windows shook.''

The area was quickly cordoned off, and ambulances and fire engines stood by as police escorted motorists and pedestrians away from the scene.

A year ago, police safely detonated a bomb, believed to have been planted by a dissident Irish group, outside the same station.

The blast came a day after Britain published new proposals designed to spur Irish Republican Army disarmament, a long-unfulfilled goal of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.

The IRA is observing a cease-fire, but the peace process is opposed by a dissident group, the so-called Real IRA, which has been blamed for a series of explosions in the province and in Britain. On Wednesday, soldiers defused a 45-pound car bomb outside Belfast International Airport, believed to have been planted by the Real IRA.

Gerry Kelly, a senior member of the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party who served a prison term for the bombing of the Old Bailey criminal court in London in 1973, condemned the attack and linked it with recent violence in Belfast blamed on Protestant paramilitaries.

``The attack last night is absolutely wrong, it is against the peace process, it is an attempt to undermine all our efforts to move the situation forward and it goes into the same vacuum as the UDA (Ulster Defense Association) violence of the last number of months,'' Kelly told British Broadcasting Corp. radio in Belfast.

Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist unit has been struggling to identify the small ``cell'' of Real IRA dissidents operating in London ever since the shadowy group targeted the British capital early last year.

Initially the London attacks were designed to grab headlines, such as last September's rocket attack on Britain's MI6 spy agency. But the level of threat grew dramatically in March when the Real IRA blasted the west London studios of the British Broadcasting Corp. with a car bomb.

The group's most notorious act was a 1998 car bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland, that killed 29 people and wounded more than 300.