Issue 371

April 26

Electronic TelegraphET

Bridge survives as IRA's 30lb bombs fail to explode
By Colin Randall, Chief Reporter

TWO BOMBS planted under Hammersmith Bridge in west London on Wednesday night were intended to cause an IRA "spectacular", police said yesterday.

More than 30lb of Semtex was packed into two briefcase-sized boxes. T he detonators exploded but failed to ignite the bombs.

Scotland Yard said it was probably the largest quantity of high explosives to be used in a single IRA attack on the British mainland. There was "no doubt" the devices were designed to kill, inflict serious injury and cause massive structural damage and disruption.

Local authority bridge experts said the bombs, if detonated, would have caused the collapse of the bridge, one of the busiest Thames crossings.

Having located the devices after two coded warnings had been received, police were withdrawing to a safe position when there were two small explosions.

The attempted bombing came within hours of Sinn Fein's announcement that it would contest next month's elections for the Northern Ireland forum

The incident was the latest in a series of IRA attacks since the ceasefire was shattered by the lorry bomb that killed two people and wrecked office buildings at South Quay, in London's Docklands, on Feb 9.

Timed to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, the attempted bombing also came within hours of Sinn Fein's announcement that it would contest next month's elections for a Northern Ireland forum designed to pave the way for all-party talks.

The potential scale of the Hammersmith destruction demonstrates that no comfort can be drawn from the trifling nature of the most recent attacks in west London.

On March 9, a small device exploded in the Old Brompton Road, Fulham, causing only minor damage. Last week an explosion shook an empty house at The Boltons, in Earls Court, but also caused no casualites and little damage.

A 30lb Semtex blast beneath Hammersmith Bridge could have caused damage comparable with the impact of the huge fertiliser bombs at South Quay and previously in the City of London and at the Staples Corner junction of the M1 and North Circular Road.

The explosives and bomb-making equipment seized at a south London house used by Ed O'Brien, the IRA bomber blown up by his own Semtex device at Aldwych as he travelled by bus to an unknown target, appear to confirm that terrorists were preparing for several high profile bombings.

Security sources recently estimated that between 20 and 30 IRA members, ranging from bombers to providers of safe houses, could be in and around London ready for a sustained campaign.

  • Hammersmith Bridge survived a bombing attempt in the pre-war IRA campaign. On March 29, 1939, sparks from a fuse were spotted by Maurice Childs, a passer-by, who picked up a suitcase containing the bomb and hurled it into the river.

    The bomb exploded without causing damage although a second device on the other side of the bridge brought down overhead girders. Mr Childs became an MBE for his bravery.

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