Bombs cache linked to carnival race threat

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The Independent Online

Detectives are investigating whether a cache of eight "extremely sophisticated" homemade bombs found in Oxfordshire were part of a racist plot to blow up the Notting Hill Carnival.

Detectives are investigating whether a cache of eight "extremely sophisticated" homemade bombs found in Oxfordshire were part of a racist plot to blow up the Notting Hill Carnival.

Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad was yesterday on full alert after anonymous letters from a group calling itself "The Blackshirts" threatened to bomb the carnival, which was expected to attract two million visitors over the bank holiday weekend.

Detectives are concerned about bombers imitating David Copeland, who killed three people and injured 139 in three bomb attacks in London before his arrest and jailing this year. A team of six army bomb disposals experts worked for nearly 48 hours making the bombs safe after they were found on Friday afternoon by a man walking his dog at Eynsham Hall, near Witney.

The devices, which could easily have maimed or killed, were contained in clear plastic 1.5-litre water bottles with three kilograms of brass nuts packed into the bottom for shrapnel.

Asked about the possibility of a threat to the two-day carnival, which continues today in London, Detective Superintendent John Donlon said: "We're looking at that very closely with the anti-terrorist branch.

"Because of things which have been said during the week to the promoters of the carnival, that is one thing we are looking at among others."

Det Supt Donlon, who is leading the investigation, said detectives were also looking at links with animal rights activists but he stressed this was only one of many avenues of inquiry. "The eight devices were extremely sensitive and very sophisticated, with anti-handling devices which might make them go off if disturbed," he said. "It's very unusual to find devices so sophisticatedly put together with such finesse and complication."

He suggested those who made the bombs might have a military or private-sector explosives background and would have to be highly intelligent to construct the "unique" devices. It is thought the bombs were so sophisticated they could have been set to operate by remote control.

All eight devices were removed from the site for examination at a forensic laboratory in Kent.

Last night specialist police search teams were continuing their hunt for more explosive devices which may have been hidden nearby. Detectives were also conducting door-to-door inquiries in the area and are following up several leads from calls to an incident room that was set up following Friday's discovery.

Police linked the find to the discovery of an identical bomb on a farm wall in nearby Cheltenham on 20 August which, Det Supt Donlon said, may have been a "test device".

Experts believe the devices are probably too sophisticated to be the work of animal rights activists and are not thought to be from the Provisional IRA as they do not contain Semtex.

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