London — Harrods blast may have political repercussions
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, reacting to Saturday's car bomb attack on Harrods department store in which five people were killed and 91 injured, is insisting that the newest terrorist onslaught on London will not deflect her government's will to defeat the Irish Republican Army.
London police Sunday were in no doubt that the Harrods bomb was the work of the IRA. But they were less certain that recent terrorist attacks were the product of a single, well-coordinated campaign, writes Monitor contributor Alexander MacLeod.
Earlier in the week, a bomb was defused in the fashionable suburb of Kensington, and before that an explosion in Woolwich in outer London was followed by a claim for responsibility by a group calling itself the Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA). There are suggestions the SNLA may share training facilities with the Irish National Liberation Army in the Irish Republic.
The British government is now convinced that the IRA, at one point this year apparently keen to explore non-violent policies, has returned to reliance on terror tactics, including assaults on civilian targets.
The shockwaves of the Harrods bombing go well beyond security concerns. Early reactions among Mrs. Thatcher's advisers included concern that attempts to develop a democratic assembly in Northern Ireland will collapse. In Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald hinted his government would consider banning Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing.
Mrs. Thatcher spoke for many Britons when she declared,''This is a crime against Christmas. It is difficult to understand the minds of people who can do this.'' But despite the prime minister's defiant tone, many Londoners were clearly shaken by the implications of the bomb at Harrods, detonated at at the height of pre-Christmas shopping in the heart of Knightsbridge. Witnesses said much of the north side of the five-story London institution was devastated.
Metropolitian Police Commissioner Sir Kenneth Newman called for an urgent review of anti-terrorist measures in central London. The home secretary, Leon Brittan, urged people to remain calm but vigilant as security precautions in and around city stores intensified amid fears there could be more terrorist attacks during the Christmas season.