IRA Says It Planted Bomb at Meeting on Terrorism
LONDON (AP) _ The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility Friday for planting a bomb at an international conference on terrorism in central London and said its target was a government minister.
The bomb was hidden in a plastic lunch box and taped to a lectern the speakers were to use. The explosive was set to go off at 10:30 a.m., 30 minutes after the meeting was to begin, police said.
“The ability of the IRA to target British cabinet ministers while, less than a mile away, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher holds a crisis meeting to find a way to stop IRA attacks, demonstrates the daring of the IRA and its ability to strike at will,” the IRA said in a statement in Dublin.
Police defused the bomb after it was discovered by chance by a sound engineer at Thursday’s one-day conference at the Royal Overseas League in Piccadilly. Police and private security guards missed the bomb in earlier sweeps.
Foreign Office Minister William Waldegrave was due to address the conference. Waldegrave is not in the Cabinet but is one of five deputies to Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.
The IRA’s statement said an ″active service unit″ had ″succeeded in breaching security to place a bomb at the Royal Overseas League conference.″
The IRA statement was issued to a Dublin news agency and signed with the IRA’s traditional nom de guerre, P. O’Neill.
Mrs. Thatcher was meeting with her Cabinet at her official residence in Downing Street when the bomb was discovered.
London’s police chief, Sir Peter Imbert, also was scheduled to address the conference. Commander George Churchill-Coleman, head of Scotland Yard’s anti- terrorist squad, said the sophisticated device contained enough plastic explosives to kill ″the the speaker and other people as well.″
Waldegrave was to have been the first speaker, but a change in his schedule forced a last-minute switch to the afternoon.
An unidentified IRA spokesman was quoted in a London newspaper on Saturday as vowing to escalate attacks in mainland Britain in its fight to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
″They are rattled and as long as they persist with their illogical and illegal claim to Ireland, we will not only continue to rattle them, but will rattle them harder,″ the IRA spokesman told The Independent newspaper.
In the Northern Ireland capital, Belfast, police blamed the IRA for planting four explosive devices packed in radio cassette holders.
Two of the devices exploded early Friday in a shop and a restaurant, causing no injuries. The other two were spotted by department store clerks and defused, police said.