IRA bomb goes off in London's tourist district


LONDON -- The Irish Republican Army stepped up its campaign of terror on the British mainland yesterday with another bomb attack in the heart of London's tourist and theater district.

Five men were wounded when a bomb went off in The Sussex, an ornate pub in Upper St. Martin's Lane near Covent Garden.

It was the eighth bombing in London in the past six days.

Less than 10 minutes before the blast, a London radio station received a call from a person who gave a code word used by the Provisional IRA.

But the caller said only that the bomb had been planted "in the Leicester Square area," too broad an area for the police to clear.

The warning "was misleading and deliberately imprecise and was designed to confuse the emergency services," said a police spokesman.

It occurred at 1:32 p.m., while the pub and neighborhood around it were jammed with tourists and office workers out for their lunch.

The IRA launched a similar bombing campaign last year in the months approaching the holidays. But most of the bombs used then were smaller, were left in stores to go off late at night and were not aimed at civilians.

The Sussex bombing could indicate a new aggressiveness on the part of the IRA.

The bomb shattered windows in the pub and in shops around it, and sent people rushing through the streets, scattering for safety.

A witness to the blast -- which reportedly was caused by a small bomb in the pub's men's room-- said, "There was glass all over the pavement and some smoke coming out of the building."

John Cracknell was approaching the pub when the device went off. "I ran in through the front door of the pub and downstairs to see if anybody was injured," he said. "The stairs were strewn with rubble."

Leanne McAlister, an office worker, said, "One man came out of the pub with blood covering his face and head. The man was dazed, and the pub was badly damaged. All the windows were blown out and there was debris on the street."

The spokesman for Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch, Cmdr. George Churchill-Coleman, said, "This is now typical of the cynical disregard that the terrorist has for public safety and life, indeed people in general."

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