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The BBC's Stephen Cape reports
"The search for the Real IRA bombers has been stepped up"
 real 56k

Terrorist expert David Capitanchik
"In the run up to an election, they (the terrorists) may decide a 'spectacular' is possible"
 real 56k

Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Real IRA: Met fears worse to come
Armed police are patrolling central London
Armed police are patrolling central London
Armed police are on the streets of London amid warnings of a mainland bombing campaign by dissident republicans.

Anti-terrorist officers at Scotland Yard have warned of a likely escalation in the bombing campaign in the run-up to the general election, and have intelligence reports warning of heightened danger.

Since last summer there have been six bomb attacks on the mainland, and officers say Britain has now entered a "period of danger".

Dissident attacks in London
June 2000: Hammersmith Bridge
July 2000: Ealing Broadway
Sept 2000: MI6 building, Vauxhall
Mar 2001: BBC Television Centre
Apr 2001 Hendon post office
May 2001: Hendon post office again
At the weekend one man was slightly injured when a bomb went off at a postal sorting office in Hendon, north London. The building had been bombed three weeks earlier with again only minor damage.

Assistant Commissioner David Veness said he feared there was "worse to come" from the Real IRA and other Irish dissident groups following the election announcement.

He warned the public to be vigilant in the weeks leading up to 7 June.

No warnings

Mr Veness said: "This is a period of danger. The risk of a vehicle car bomb is always with us.

"If we look at events which began in June of last year with relatively small bombs, we have seen the deployment of a rocket propelled grenade in central London.

Click here to see a map of recent London blasts

"We have seen other bombs which are in public places without any form of warning.

"To use high explosive in any public place in London on any day of the week, at any hour is reckless as to causing injury or death to members of the public."

Covert special branch officers and armed units are in major cities.

Special Branch

Police believe an "active service unit" of the Real IRA is operating in London and they fear it will step up its activities as 7 June gets nearer.

Although Scotland Yard will not comment on detailed security matters, it is thought that all of the main candidates in the general election will be guarded by Special Branch officers during the campaign.

MI5 and the National Crime Squad will also be seeking to flush out the Real IRA unit before it can do significant damage.

Earlier this week the head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Squad, Alan Fry, said police would put into play contingency plans to deal with the possibility of an election terror campaign.

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

"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."

No-one claimed responsibility for last weekend's bomb but police believe it was almost certainly the work of the Real IRA.

Post Office depot, The Hyde, Hendon
The sorting office in Hendon had been targeted before

They have been waging war against the "British establishment" for at least a year.

The Real IRA was born out of a split within the ranks of the Provisional IRA in October 1997.

Unhappy with the Good Friday Agreement and, as they saw it, the lack of concessions the Provisional leadership had gained from the government, a sizeable faction broke away.

In August 1998 they were responsible for the bombing of Omagh, which killed 29 people.

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