29 January 2006

Today in history: Explosions rock London's West End


29 January 1976

A series of bombs have exploded in the West End of London during the night - one person, believed to be a taxi driver, has been hurt.

Twelve devices went off - four of them were outside employment agencies and another was found in Selfridge's department store in Oxford Street.

A 13th device was discovered later in an HMV record store.

Police say the bombs were small, between about 3-5bl (1.2-2kg). Several of them started small fires.

They say it is too soon to say who planted the bombs, but anti-terrorist officers are investigating.

Officers say the bombs were probably planted during the day and timed to go off at night.

The taxi driver was injured in an explosion at the junction of Foubert's Place and Kingly Street. A boilerman is also reported to have been trapped in the basement of a shop in Duke Street after a bomb exploded. He was rescued by police.

The reception manager of the Miranda Club heard a bomb go off in Kingly Street.

John Jenkins, said: "There was a loud bang and a lot of smoke in the street. I was told a bomb had gone off in a letter box."

Another witness told the BBC: "We heard a very loud explosion and some old lady screamed her head off over the back there. That was all we heard, we tumbled out of bed and came down to see what it was all about."

Officers cleared the area as soon as the explosions began.

Much of Oxford Street has remained closed for most of the day while searches continue for more devices.

The bombings are a surprise - the first in central London for more than a year.

In November 1975 a bomb planted by the IRA exploded in a restaurant killing two people and injuring more than 20.

In Context

The IRA later admitted it had planted the bombs that went off in the West End.

The 1970s marked the bloodiest years of the Troubles and this was the latest in a series of attacks on the British mainland.

A ceasefire in 1975 and a major security clampdown led the IRA to re-organise itself into a number of underground cells.

The West End attack was almost certainly carried out by one of these groups.

The next bombing outrage on the British mainland was the bombing of the Conservative Party conference headquarters in Brighton in October 1984.

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