Four IRA bombs explode in London

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The Independent Online
THE IRA mounted its first mainland attacks of the new year in the early hours of yesterday morning with an assault on the commercial heart of London.

Four devices went off in Oxford Street and the Strand causing fires, one of which gutted a CD and video store, after calls to the BBC and Sky television news.

One caller, a man with an Irish accent who said he was from the IRA, said 'numerous bombs' were set to explode in 45 minutes, while an earlier one said: 'You've got time to sort them out.'

No one was hurt in the explosions, but roads were sealed off as police checked streets for other devices and shop owners were told to inspect their stores as they arrived to open for business.

Apart from the shop that was destroyed, all the other stores' sprinkler systems put out the fires quickly and they reopened for business during the afternoon.

The first call was at 2.57am, when a man claimed that bombs would go off in Charing Cross and Oxford Circus. A second warning, within the hour, added Westminster to the list, while not giving details of the exact locations.

Extensive damage was caused by the first device, which was in the Half Price video shop in Oxford Street, a business operating on a short lease in vacated premises.

The owner, who declined to give his name, said he had lost pounds 100,000 worth of CDs, videos and audio cassettes. 'I saw the shop on television this morning,' he said. 'It was the first I knew about it. I'm so shocked. I have only been open a couple of months, but now I am finished. A lot of people I employed are now out of work.'

Bob Turner, representative for the letting agent, who was on the scene at 4am, said: 'Smoke was pouring out, but I could see no flames. The seat of the fire must have been at the back. The whole lot has been wiped out.'

The other devices went off simultaneously on the first floor of the Dillons book store in the Strand, and the Reject Shop in Oxford Street. It was also later discovered that a fire had begun in the children's clothing department of C & A in Oxford Street.