Two car bombs end IRA week of publicity
No one was injured in the latest blasts, in cars parked outside the Royal British Legion club in Southgate, and the Arnos Grove Underground station, both in north London, but Victoria rail station and six Underground stations were closed as a precaution.
The devices went off shortly before and after 10.30pm and took to six the number thought to have been planted by the IRA in London since Wednesday.
If this week's bombs represent an attempt by the terrorists to create maximum disruption and media exposure through minimum effort and loss of life, they have succeeded. The headline that dominated the front page of the later editions of yesterday morning's Daily Express was the one the IRA wanted to see: 'London Hit By IRA Car Bombs.'
Not only was the Conservative conference relegated to the bottom right-hand corner of the front page, but pressures of edition times and the confusion of the first reports led the Express to give the story more prominence than in retrospect it merited.
Those car bombs turned out to be something else entirely: a couple of small devices randomly placed near London Bridge railway station and in Marylebone by terrorists who apparently escaped by bicycle. One person was slightly injured and there was some damage to cars and buildings.
The terrorists have not had to go anywhere near Brighton this week to attack John Major or inflict fear upon the public. They have learnt that, by the shrewd timing and placing of bombs, they can have as big an impact as if they had carried out a full frontal assault on the Grand Hotel itself.
The IRA has capitalised on the fact that even a very small bomb, which explodes without injury anywhere in central London, will almost certainly be near some building that constitutes 'a target'. Such bombs inevitably attract attention and usually disrupt public transport.
As Commander George Churchill-Coleman, head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch, put it on Thursday night, this is simply the IRA's way of reminding everyone of its presence. This week's four small bombs in London are the fourth time this year the IRA has chosen important moments on the political agenda to grab headlines from John Major.
On 10 January, a 5lb (2.2kg) briefcase bomb exploded in Whitehall shortly after the Prime Minister left for an election strategy meeting; a month later, shortly before a key meeting on Northern Ireland in Downing Street, a small bomb was found in a Whitehall telephone box; rail travel throughout the capital was disrupted on Budget day by an explosion in a signal box on Wandsworth Common.
The most critically timed bomb blew apart the Baltic Exchange in the City of London on the evening after polling day. Not only were the celebrating Conservatives in the City wine bars jolted, but media coverage of April's election victory was severely affected.
The IRA knows that if it plants bombs in the evening, it catches journalists up against late deadlines. They have to make judgements on the basis of first reports - inevitably more dramatic than the reality - so the incidents earn more space than they are worth. Only a few of this year's explosions on the mainland would have merited more than minimal coverage if they had occurred in Northern Ireland.
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