pounds 1m price on heads of London bombers

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The Independent Online
JASON BENNETTO

Crime Correspondent

The police raided 30 properties and arrested several people yesterday in the hunt for IRA bombers as a reward of up to pounds 1m was offered to catch the terrorists involved in shattering the ceasefire.

The dawn raids took place in London, Kent, the West Midlands and Essex, follow tip-offs from the public and information supplied by Special Branch police officers and MI5.

Unnamed private companies and individuals, described by police as "members of the community", have pledged to give up to pounds 1m for the conviction of IRA bombers - the highest reward ever offered in this country to catch terrorists. Details of the donors have not been released for fear of reprisals.

Commander John Grieve, head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch, also revealed yesterday further details of the route taken by the lorry used to plant last Friday's Docklands bomb in which killed two people and injured 100 in East London. On Thursday a bomb found in a telephone box in Central London was disarmed by the police, causing massive disruption.

More than 20 of the addresses raided at dawn yesterday were in London. Four of those arrested were held in the Maidstone area of Kent. All those held are last night being detained at unnamed police stations.

Commander Grieve said: "We will use every weapon we are given by our communities to bring terrorists to justice. We know that some criminals are motivated by money and we can all use that to get the information we need."

He said information leading to the arrests came from the public via an anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.

Further details of the movements of the blue flat-back Ford Cargo lorry used in the Docklands bomb have also been revealed. This follows appeals by the police for owners of surveillance cameras to hold onto their film for detectives to examine.

The lorry was brought from Northern Ireland on the ferry to Stranraer on the west coast of Scotland.

Commander Grieve disclosed that on the 7 and 8 February it was taken with a red trailer to South Mimms, Hertfordshire.

On Friday, the day of the explosion, it was driven to waste land in Barking, East London. At about 4pm the lorry bomb was primed and driven to Docklands where it was parked on the road. At 7.01pm it exploded.

There was further disruption in London yesterday as the emergency services dealt with a series of false alarms. In Birmingham and other cities throughout the country security was stepped up by the police.

Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, yesterday sent a letter to Downing Street urging John Major to set a date for all-party talks to help him persuade the IRA to restore the ceasefire.

The reply is expected to urge Mr Adams and the IRA to abandon the return to violence. But ministers are not rejecting the Sinn Fein president's call for a date for talks out of hand.

They are seeking to reach a compromise by offering a target date for all-party negotiations, after the elections, which Sinn Fein oppose.

In Ireland yesterday rallies calling for the restoration of the IRA ceasefire were held on both sides of the border.

Ribbons for peace, page 2

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