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Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist branch Alan Fry
"Coded warnings of this kind put the public at great risk"
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David Capitanchik, terrorism expert, Aberdeen Univ.
talks to News Online about the dissident republican movement
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Sunday, 4 March, 2001, 18:50 GMT
Target was maximum publicity
Blast outside Television Centre
Does the BBC bomb signal a change in terrorist tactics?

By the BBC's Ireland correspondent David Eades

The attack outside BBC Television Centre is what security services and terrorists alike would term a "Spectacular".

It offers maximum publicity to the organisation, while advanced warnings reduced the chances of killing people.

Bomb damage: Television Centre
British institution: Bomb aimed at 'soft' target
But, for all the attention it receives, this is hardly the start of anything new. The Real IRA has been active in Northern Ireland for the past twelve months.

In that time the scale of their attacks and of their ambitions has steadily risen.

Last February, individuals were throwing small devices over the perimeter fencing of Army barracks.

This year the security forces have had to deal with an 1100 pound bomb in County Armagh and the use of 'barrack buster' mortars fired at military bases - in all, 28 incidents testing the resolve of politicians and the military to make the peace process work.

Peace talks threat

What it points to is a clear indication that dissident Republican paramilitaries are recruiting effectively and have set up their own supply lines for ammunition - mostly through the Balkans.

Anti-terrorist sources believe they have established and expanded operational cells in London too.

Remains of the taxi carrying the bomb
Police say it was lucky no one was killed
It is the result of mounting disillusionment with the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein in their handling of a peace process, which has put Martin McGuinness into government, sharing power with Unionists within the UK establishment.

The timing of this particular attack needs little explanation. The peace talks are currently in deadlock, the scope for destabilising them is considerable.

By breaching British security in London as well as Northern Ireland, the dissidents make it increasingly difficult for the Army to allow any reduction in their military capabilities.

That is precisely what Sinn Fein is insisting upon if there is to be any move by the Provisional IRA towards decommissioning its own weapons.

Soft target

Perhaps the greatest risk the dissidents have taken in their latest attack is the decision to switch targets.

Rather than hit another Army barracks or road and rail infrastructure, they have opted for a high-profile, "soft" target, in the full knowledge they would attract huge publicity.

They have managed that, but injured one civilian in the process. The last time they killed anyone in an attack was two and a half years ago.

They took the lives of 29 people and two unborn twins - it was the worst single atrocity in thirty years of troubles and the condemnation of their methods was total. It was the bombing of Omagh.

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