UK On Terror Alert After London Bomb

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London ( - Britain was on alert Monday for terrorist attacks after a car bomb exploded outside BBC television studios in London Sunday.

Anti-terrorist police officers have warned that further bombings are likely. Police believe the bomb, planted in an old London taxi cab that was bought shortly beforehand, was the work of the dissident Irish republican group, the Real IRA, which rejects the Northern Ireland peace process.

Following warning calls, the area had been evacuated and police were at the scene when the bomb exploded. Only one man, a railway worker, was hurt.

Police are linking the bombing to three unsolved blasts in the capital last year, including the firing of a mortar at the headquarters of the MI6 foreign intelligence service.

One possible motive for the attack was the fact the BBC recently broadcast a documentary naming possible suspects in the Real IRA's bomb attack on the Northern Ireland town of Omagh in 1998, in which 29 people were killed.

Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble speculated that the blast could have been carried out in London because terrorists had failed in recent attempts to perpetrate spectacular attacks in the province itself.

"It is quite clear we are dealing with terrorists prepared to use ruthless tactics without any care for the consequences," said Anti-Terrorist Branch head Alan Fry. "I fear we will see more attacks in the coming days and weeks and it is vital that the public are vigilant."

Home Secretary Jack Straw said the bomb could have resulted in serious loss of life. It was important the attack not be allowed to disrupt the Good Friday peace agreement, he said.

The peace process remains troubled, however. Pro-British unionists have just announced sanctions against the Irish republican Sinn Fein with whom they share power in a Northern Ireland Assembly, because of the Sinn Fein-affiliated IRA's failure to disarm.

UK politicians across the spectrum condemned the attack. Conservative Party spokesman on Northern Ireland, Andrew Mackay, said the blast should be a warning against a reduction of the British security presence in Northern Ireland.

He added that, with the IRA and other paramilitary groups' failure to disarm, militants like those in the Real IRA could easily get their hands on weapons and explosives.

Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, condemned the bombing, and said Sinn Fein had "consistently called on this micro-group not only to stop their activities but indeed to disband."

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow