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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, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Police hunt bridge bombers
Police
Police roadblocks are looking for witnesses
Anti-terrorist police have set up roadblocks in west London in their hunt for the Hammersmith Bridge bombers.

Police are urging Londoners to be vigilant amid fears of further bomb attacks.



The bomb is a deplorable outrage

London Mayor Ken Livingstone

Drivers and pedestrians at Hammersmith and on nearby bridges have been stopped, searched and questioned as security in the capital is stepped up.

No-one has admitted carrying out the attack, despite speculation that it could have been the work of dissident Irish republicans opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Appeal for witnesses

Police say the device contained between one and two kilos of high explosive and detonated at 0430BST on Thursday.

"We are speaking to motorists and passers-by who may have been in the area during that time period the previous night," said a Scotland Yard spokeswoman.


Bridge
Bomb blast tore a hole in a girder of Hammersmith Bridge

"We will be asking if they saw anyone acting suspiciously near the bridge or in a car before the explosion."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Fry, the head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch, urged people to be vigilant.

"I am asking people that if they see a suspect package to contact us immediately on 999," he said.

He said there would be more high visibility policing on London's streets in the wake of the bomb and measures would be taken to reassure the public.

Mr Fry refused to comment on the possible link with Irish terrorists.

"I am not going to speculate but clearly they would be a line of inquiry," he said.


London
The A306 Hammersmith Bridge could be closed for a few weeks

No-one was injured and 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.

Residents living near to the scene of the explosion described how windows in their homes were blown out by the force of the blast.

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

Targeted

Hammersmith Bridge has been targeted twice before by terrorists, the last time in 1996 when the most powerful Semtex bomb yet used by the IRA on the mainland failed to detonate.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor said dissident republicans trying to destabilise the peace process could have been behind the blast.

"If it's terrorist-linked I would expect it to be the breakaway groups within the republican movement, something like the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA," he said.

"It must always be remembered there are minority republican terrorist groups still on the ground, still potentially active."

Terrorism expert David George agreed that the attack was most probably the work of the Real/Continuity IRA, which broke from the Provisionals three years ago.

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.

If dissident republicans were involved, then this would be the first time they have launched an attack in mainland Britain.

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
02 Jun 00 | UK
Police fear more bombings
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