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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Election bombing campaign feared
The head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch has warned of a general election bombing campaign, after another blast in London linked to dissident republicans.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Fry was speaking after a second blast at a north London postal sorting office - where a bomb linked to the Real IRA went off three weeks ago.

One passer-by - a man in his 20s - was slightly injured in the latest explosion in Hendon, at 0153 BST on Sunday.


Regrettably, there are those republicans who think that the election gives them an opportunity

David Trimble
Mr Fry said police had contingency plans for dealing with the "major challenge" of a terror campaign ahead of the election, which is expected to be called within days.

"We have seen sustained activity in election campaigns both in '97 and '92," he said.

"We take note of that and we will be doing everything possible to secure the safety of those taking part in the election and the general public."

Click here to see a map of recent London blasts

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said no warning was given ahead of the latest blast and no-one has claimed responsibility.

But Mr Fry said: "The most likely dissident group to be responsible was the Real IRA in view of their on-going terror campaign in Northern Ireland and London."

Dissident attacks: London
June 2000: Hammersmith Bridge
July 2000: Ealing Broadway
Sept 2000: MI6 (Suspected, no warning given)
Mar 2001: BBC Television Centre
Apr 2001: Hendon postal office
In the past year the capital has been hit by several terror attacks blamed on the terror group.

These include the bombing of BBC Television Centre, a rocket attack on MI6's headquarters and an explosion on Hammersmith Bridge.

Northern Ireland's First Minister David Trimble said: "Regrettably, there are those republicans who think that the election gives them an opportunity and I fear that we may expect other such incidents during the election."

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid condemned the attack, but said the actions of those responsible, would only serve to strengthen support for the peace process.

And Conservative shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Andrew Mackay told BBC News Online: "This latest terrorist attack further underlines that republican terrorists are still active and could threaten the democratic process during the forthcoming election campaign."

Liberal Democrat campaigns director Lord Rennard said all the parties were working closely with the police on precautions against any terrorist threat in the election.

"We are advising candidates and local parties to exercise extreme caution," he told BBC News Online.

Police cordoned off the scene of Sunday's blast and have been searching for evidence. Surrounding roads will remain closed for most of Sunday.

Officers also cordoned off a territorial army base in White City, west London - the scene of a previous blast where a 14-year-old cadet lost his hand.

'Huge bang'

Mr Fry told the BBC that about half a pound of explosives had been used in the latest Hendon incident.

Head of the anti-terrorist branch Alan Fry
Alan Fry: "Police have contingency plans"
The quantity used was "sufficient to cause serious injury or even death", he said.

Petrol station worker Ambalawanar Ahilan, who works in a BP garage close to the sorting office, said he heard a "huge bang".

"It made me and a customer jump. I ran outside but couldn't see anything and within a couple of minutes police cars were rushing in," he said.

"I was here when the last bomb went off and this one seemed louder."

Anti-terrorist officers have been on high alert over the bank holiday weekend as Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Bobby Sands.

A suspected terrorist bomb packed with high explosives blew out windows at the Hendon building in north London on 14 April. The depot suffered minor damage in that blast.

The building is a small delivery office dealing with mail for the NW9 area, and one of 100 similar-sized buildings in London.



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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Cape
"Police believe the real IRA could be behind the blast"
Head of anti-terrorism branch, Alan Fry
"Sufficient to cause injury or even death"
Find out more about dissident republican attacks on London

Ealing bombing

Target London

Analysis

Background

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