IRA blast disrupts commuters in London

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 October, 1993, 12:00am

THE IRA resumed its campaign of terror on the British mainland yesterday following its weekend of violence in Ulster, by planting bombs to disrupt rail travel across southern England.

Thousands of people marched through Belfast to the scene of an IRA bombing that left nine Protestants and one of the bombers dead.

Gerry Adams, the leader of the IRA's political wing Sinn Fein, said he would ask terrorists to lay down their arms if Britain accepted his proposals.

On the mainland, the IRA planted three bombs - one of which exploded - on the rail network west of London, causing no injuries but disrupting transport for up to 40,000 morning commuters.

The bomb that exploded was close to Reading railway station in Berkshire on the main line into London from the west of England. The army detonated two other devices in controlled explosions at Reading station and at Basingstoke station nearby.

Damage was not extensive and nobody was hurt, but the incident stopped nearly all rail services into London from the west throughout the day.

Police believed Reading may have had a lucky escape - the explosion followed the accidental discovery of another device in a routine safety check by British Rail staff.

That bomb was discovered in a cistern in a men's toilet at the station. It had been primed and was time to go off yesterday morning.

Early yesterday police received a coded warning about the other Reading bomb, and an hour later it blew up next to the track. Because of the earlier discovery the area had been cleared and no trains were running - but police know that had they not been aware of the cistern bomb the area would have been packed with people from the emergency services at just the time it was due to go off.

Chief Superintendent Anthony Howlett-Bolton said it was big enough to have destroyed the station, track and anyone in the area.

''I have to say I am disgusted. I am always disgusted by the antics of the IRA who are callous and have no regard at all for human life outside London, they think perhaps it is a softer option,'' he said.

Belfast police said yesterday the bomb which devastated the Protestant heartland of the city contained about nine kilograms of Semtex.

Police are waiting to question several of the 59 injured people, among whom is a suspected terrorist under armed guard in hospital.

At least 5,000 workers from Harland and Wolff shipyard and Shorts aerospace factory downed their tools to marched to the scene of the bombing, where a brief service and wreath-laying ceremony were held.

Mr Adams said he would advise the IRA to end violence if the British Government responded ''positively'' to a peace proposal he put forward with John Hume, leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party.

But Prime Minister John Major rejected Mr Adams' suggestion.

''I think for the people of Northern Ireland who over the years have seen their friends, their relatives, their families murdered by IRA violence to hear him suggest, providing there's a political dividend for him, that he can stop that killing will be something I think they would regard as outrageous and so do I,'' Mr Major said in Cyprus, where he was attending a meeting of Commonwealth leaders.

Dick Spring, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, indicated the bombing could mark the end of Mr Adams' bid with Mr Hume to explore a political settlement with the British Government.