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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Bombers 'stepping up campaign'
The remains of the car in which the bomb was planted
The debris is being searched for evidence
The Ealing car bomb signals an escalation of the terror campaign being waged by Irish dissidents on the British mainland, according to a terrorism expert.

David Capitanchik, from the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, told BBC News Online the Real IRA was "almost certain" to be responsible for the attack.

The blast follows bomb attacks on the BBC Television Centre in west London, and a post office delivery depot in Hendon, north London, earlier this year.

If you want to disrupt London, it is the best place to do it from

David Capitanchik,
terrorism expert
Mr Capitanchik believes that the same cell of dissident republicans is behind all three incidents.

But he said the Ealing bombing represented a change of tactics for the group in its operations on the mainland.

"It is the first time they have used a bomb as powerful as this - intending to kill, maim and injure people, particularly those in the security services."

Mr Capitanchik believes the "misleading warning" given before the device exploded was intended to "draw the police into the area of the bomb".

This was an attempt to maximise casualties among the security services - a tactic that has been used previously in Northern Ireland.

West London was being targeted because of the potential to cause chaos in the capital from the area.

"If you want to disrupt London, it is the best place to do it from," he said.

'Low risk operations'

Mr Capitanchik said he believed the bombing was carried out by "a very small group of people who hardly ever meet together".

But he dismissed suggestions that a cell of dissident republicans may be resident in the area.

Fire engine, police car and ambulance
All emergency services were called to the scene
"I don't think they would want to be based in an area where they are attracting so much attention," he said.

"They are not suicide bombers - the very opposite.

"These operations are supposed to be low risk."

The attack comes at an extremely sensitive time in the Northern Ireland peace process, as parties are considering whether to accept a political package from the British and Irish governments.

Mr Capitanchik fears Friday's bombing will further polarise opinion among unionists and nationalists, giving strength to rejectionists on both sides.

"The situation is very tense and this does not help at all," he said.

"The danger is that the extremists take over."

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