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The BBC's Valerie Jones
"It is a reminder to the people of London that terrorism hasn't gone away"
 real 28k

Former IRA member, Sean O'Callaghan
"It's likely to be the IRA"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 June, 2000, 07:05 GMT 08:05 UK
Police fear more bombings
Police tape off the area around Hammersmith Bridge after an explosion
Police sealed off the area to traffic
Anti-terrorist police have warned that further bomb attacks could follow Thursday's explosion under a bridge in west London.



There was the most colossal bang

Eyewitness John Everett
Officers are investigating the possibility that the bomb may have been planted by dissident groups opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Members of the public have been warned to be vigilant as the investigation into the explosion at Hammersmith Bridge continues.

bridge
The bridge was targeted by the IRA in 1996
A sophisticated high-explosive device, believed to be between one and two kilos of Semtex, was attached to a girder under the bridge and exploded at about 0430 BST.

Throughout Thursday night, police mounted road blocks in west London and questioned motorists and passers-by in an effort to find witnesses who saw anything suspicious.

Anti-terrorist police are believed to be liasing with the British security services in the hunt for the bombers. No group has so far admitted planting the bomb.

The attack triggered a number of hoax calls including warnings a device had been planted in the Dartford Tunnel in Kent, causing it to be closed for 35 minutes.

When asked about the link to Irish paramilitaries, the head of Scotland Yard's Anti-terrorist Branch Alan Fry said: "I am not going to speculate but clearly they would be a line of inquiry."

A police spokesman added there had been no warning call and no-one had admitted carrying out the attack.

No-one was injured and the police say the bridge does not appear to be extensively damaged by the bomb.

But the local council estimates that it could take up to three weeks of repairs and safety checks before the bridge re-opens to traffic.

Loud bang heard

Nearby residents reported hearing a loud bang on the south side of the River Thames.

Adrian Larkman, who lives near the bridge, said: "I work nights and I was cooking when there was a loud bang. The windows of my house shook. I dialled 999 and I was apparently the first person to call.

"I put my boots on and went outside five minutes later and there were already policemen there."

Explosives experts with dogs carried out a detailed search of the bridge and the mud underneath.


London Mayor Ken Livingstone condemned those responsible for the bomb.

"The bomb is a deplorable outrage. I urge Londoners to do everything possible to assist the police with their inquiries," he said.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor said he believed dissident republicans intent on destabilising the peace process may have been responsible.

He said: "If it is terrorist related one would expect it to be one of the breakaway groups within the republican movement, something like the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA."

Local Labour MP Iain Coleman branded the attack a "shocking act".

"This violent outrage placed at risk the lives of many local people and I hope that the forces of law and order are able to track down those responsible and bring them to justice as quickly as possible."

After the explosion, the area near the busy junction of the A4 was sealed off, severely disrupting traffic.

Four years ago, the IRA were thwarted in their attempt to bomb Hammersmith Bridge with what was then the biggest Semtex device found on the mainland.

Detonators on two devices went off, but the explosive failed to ignite.

Police have appealed for witnesses to contact 0800 789 321.

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissidents factions threatening peace
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