IRA bombs cause motorway gridlock

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The IRA was blamed yesterday for causing the terror alert in which two bombs and two other suspect packages led to the closure of three of Britain's motorways and affected the journeys of hundreds of thousands of motorists.

Security experts said that the IRA had embarked on a pre-election terror campaign designed to undermine Britain's infrastructure. They predicted that future targets could include gasworks, waterworks and telephone exchanges.

Yesterday's alert was timed to cause maximum economic disruption, severing Britain's main road links between north and south for the entire working day.

Following a series of coded phone warnings at 8am, police were forced to close 30 miles of motorway, around the junction of the M1 and the M6 and the junction of the M6 and M5.

The bombs were both found at junction 9 of the M6 motorway near Walsall in the West Midlands, and two harmless packages were discovered by the M1 in Northamptonshire.

West Midlands Police confirmed yesterday afternoon that a device found under an elevated section of the M6 was a "viable bomb" with the potential to cause loss of life. Bomb disposal experts carried out controlled explosions to neutralise the device at junction 9 of the motorway. Later police revealed that they had discovered a second bomb at the junction. Detectives said its detonator had exploded, but the bomb itself had not detonated.

Both the motorway disruption and the statements of republican spokesmen in Belfast appear to indicate the recent predictions of an imminent IRA ceasefire are unfounded. At the moment the IRA is waging a comparatively low-key campaign. Its last two attacks in Britain, at Wilmslow railway station in Cheshire last week, and yesterday on the motorway system, have been designed to cause disruption rather than to take life.

However, it is impossible to say whether such an approach will continue.