Authorities seize 10 tons of explosives in London 1 man killed, 5 arrested in police raids at dawn on suspected IRA dTC holdouts

September 24, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- Police claimed they prevented "imminent" Irish Republican Army terrorist attacks after seizing up to 10 tons of homemade explosives during dawn raids yesterday in which one man was killed and five others were arrested.

Officials said the cache of weapons discovered in a north London warehouse could have been used in truck bomb attacks, similar to IRA-triggered explosions that left two dead in London in February and injured more than 200 in Manchester in June.

British Prime Minister John Major declared himself "absolutely delighted" by the find and turned up the pressure on Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing. Sinn Fein has been lobbying to be included in recently convened all-party peace talks despite the lack of an IRA cease-fire.

"The discovery of these plans and the huge stocks of explosives and arms put in their proper context professions of peaceful intentions by Sinn Fein's leaders and speculation about a new IRA cease-fire," Major said.

"It remains impossible to reconcile Sinn Fein's rhetoric for peace with the IRA's preparations for war," he added.

In addition to the homemade explosives, police recovered 2 pounds of the plastic explosive Semtex, car booby traps, three Kalashnikov assault rifles, two handguns, ammunition, detonators, timing mechanisms, two trucks and other vehicles.

No details were released on the death of the suspect, though there were bloodstains on the front steps of a home that was raided in London's Hammersmith section.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon said the operation "frustrated an attempt" by the IRA "to carry out significant and imminent attacks on the mainland with the possibility, indeed the probability, of grave loss of life, serious damage and disruption to mainland cities."

The raid came less than two weeks after rumors surfaced that the IRA was considering calling another cease-fire in its terror campaign to drive British authorities out of Northern Ireland.

The IRA's recent record of setting off bombs on the mainland has been spotty. One attempt to blow up a bridge over the Thames River was foiled when police spotted the bomb. Another IRA bomber blew himself up on a London bus. In June, police arrested seven men after uncovering a suspected IRA bomb-making operation.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said yesterday's "incident underlines the seriousness of the current situation."

"We have lived with a political vacuum for some time now, and that is entirely dangerous," he said.

Most Northern Ireland politicians condemned the IRA.

Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, the leading Roman Catholic party, called for an IRA cease-fire, and said: "Unless we get it, then there is going to be a difficulty in reconciling what is termed as the peace process with the storage of arms and the potential use of guns."

Pub Date: 9/24/96

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