Police chiefs reject Combat 18 threat unlikely

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SCOTLAND YARD chiefs revealed yesterday that Combat 18, the neo-Nazi organisationthat has claimed responsibility for two nail bombings in London, had been infiltrated by the police and that the group was unlikely to be behind thecampaign.

Police intelligence indicated that its membership amounts to the equivalent of "no more than two football teams", a senior Scotland Yard officer said, suggesting that C18 is incapable of carrying out a sustained race terror campaign across Britain.

The officer said: "We were doing things against Combat 18, six weeks, two months ago. We were after their music. We were after the CD industry that fuels the race hate industry, and the concerts. It's where they get their funding from."

Last night a spokesman for the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said that Combat 18's music sales were a "massive international operation".

The group sells CDs by skinhead rock bands including No Remorse, Black Shirts, War Hammer and Razor's Edge.

The Searchlight spokesman said: "They do runs of around 1,000 CDs, which cost only about pounds 1 to produce and sell for around pounds 15 each. They are also merchandising the bands' T-shirts, posters and badges."

The Scotland Yard officer indicated that the outrages in Brixton and Brick Lane, in south and east London, which injured 45 people in total, were likely to be the work of a small breakaway group or a single racist. The officer said the real bomber may have issued a claim in the name of C18, to hide his own identity. He said: "Beware the flag of convenience of Combat 18. A lot of very strange people line up behind C18."

Among several far-right groups to have claimed theyplanted the Brixton bomb, which ripped through a busy Saturday market 12 days ago, are the obscure "English National Party" and the White Wolves. The latter are believed to be a renegade gang linked to C18 and based in the north of England.

Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said the bomb attacks were not just attacks on the Afro-Caribbean and Bangladeshi communities but the "whole of British society".

The reward to catch thebombers has risen to pounds 70,000, thought to be the biggest ever offered for information about a crime in London.