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Car bomb found in London

29 June, 2007

The junction of Coventry Street and Haymarket in central London is cordoned off as police officers investigate a 'viable explosive device'. Photograph
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A car bomb was defused in central London after a member of the public alerted Scotland Yard to a suspicious vehicle.

Police are now frantically searching landmark sites across the capital for further explosive devices. They were not sure whether the bomb was a lone device or one of several deployed across London.

A source said: "The indications that we have got so far are that it was certainly a big device."

The security scare near Piccadilly Circus, one of London's best-known landmarks, poses an early test for the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair just two days ago, and the new home secretary, Jacqui Smith.

The bomb was found a few hours before the new cabinet was to hold its second meeting in as many days. Key officials are set to hold a meeting of Cobra, the government's emergency response team.

Specialist teams of bomb disposal officers were sent to Haymarket, near Piccadilly following the report that a car had been abandoned on the road. Haymarket was closed off while the experts examined the car.

After an initial investigation of the vehicle officers discovered a potentially viable device. It was made safe by bomb disposal experts, and forensic explosives officers on the scene were examining the car.

It is understood the device was very crudely made.

One witness said he saw a green gas canister - the colour for propane - in the backseat of the vehicle along with a large number of nails on the car's floor, Sky News reported.

Jack Straw, the new justice secretary, called the incident "very saddening," but added "these things happen."

The defence secretary, Des Browne, told BBC Radio Scotland: "It does appear to be a very serious incident. My first reaction to this is, thank God that we have police and explosives experts who can make these devices safe, and the arrangements they appear to have done, and that nobody has been injured."

A police source said they did not know as yet who was responsible. No warnings were received. The car will be taken to the forensic explosives laboratory at Fort Halstead in Kent, to be examined in a specialist facility known as the Igloo.

Earlier this year Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, warned that what takes place on the streets of Baghdad - where car bombs are a frequent occurrence - could eventually reach London. It emerged that anti-terrorist police last month were spot-checking lorries on the outskirts of the city amid growing fears that extremists would use a bomb in a vehicle.

But senior police sources have stressed they have no direct intelligence that any group or individual is planning such an attack on London.

One eyewitness told Sky News that door staff at the nightclub Tiger Tiger alerted police after the car was driven into bins and the driver ran off shortly before 2am.

The witness said the large silver Mercedes was being driven "erratically" before the crash. The driver was not stopped. Tiger Tiger, a popular bar, club and restaurant with branches across the UK, is located at 29 The Haymarket.

Courtesy: guardian unlimited

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