Likely military targets throughout Britain have been put on high-level alert as a new provisional IRA bombing campaign appears to be getting under way. Anti-terrorist routines were adopted as the Republicans claimed responsibility for a series of recent attacks in Britain and abroad, including the bombing of a Royal Air Force base on the outskirts of London last week.
The head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad has warned that IRA plans are well advanced for a campaign aimed at boosting flagging Republican morale in the wake of the collapse of a long hunger strike by prisoners at the Maze Prison , Belfast.
Scotland Yard and military security experts say the threat to military and civilian targets in Britain is the worst since the 1975 IRA bombing campaign.It is believed one or two cells involving between six and a dozen IRA members have enough explosives to cause a number of incidents.
Army and Air Force bases in England are the most likely focus of the bombers, although if the campaign gathers momentum civilian targets may become involved.
The new campaign comes at a time when Margaret Thatcher and her government are trying to establish better links between London and Dublin with the aim of promoting close political consultations between the two countries.
The possible dimensions of the renewed terror campaign became clear when an IRA group planted a sophisticated fire bomb at the RAF Uxbridge air base in west London. It is the first time the Republicans have used this type of device in England.
Two years ago 12 people died in a restaurant in Ulster as a result of an IRA firebomb blast.
Soon after the Uxbridge outrage, the IRA claimed that last month they had been responsible for an explosion at a gas works near London, an attack on a Territorial Army barracks, and the attempted assasination in Brussels of Christopher Tugendhat, Britain's Common Market commissioner.
London police say they have information that the breaking of the hunger strike at the Maze Prison before Christmas demoralized the IRA leadership. Republican commanders believe they need a new bombing campaign to restore confidence within their own movement.
This analysis coincides with military intelligence reaching London from Ulster where the IRA at first claimed to have secured special political privileges from the British authorities in return for ending the hunger strike. Now, however, IRA leaders accept that they wer e outwitted by Mrs. Thatcher.