Major Terror Attack Foiled In London
Updated: 11:46, Friday June 29, 2007
Police believe they have foiled a major terrorist attack in the heart of London's West End after a "massive" explosive device was found in a car.
An eyewitness said a man crashed the vehicle into bins near a nightclub early this morning and then ran off.
The suspected bomb was in Piccadilly, near the Regent Street shopping area, and security sources say it could have been timed to coincide with Gordon Brown's first day as Prime Minister.
A member of the public alerted police to the suspicious vehicle in The Haymarket shortly before 2am.
The area was cordoned off by officers who examined the car, outside an American Express foreign exchange.
They discovered what appeared to be a potentially explosive device, which was then made safe using a remote-controlled robot.
The vehicle was a metallic green Mercedes which also contained two propane gas canisters and a large number of nails.
The back door of the car was said to be open when it was discovered near the Tiger Tiger nightclub.
Mr Brown said the incident reminds us that Britain faces "a serious and continuous threat" and the public "need to be alert" at all times
The Haymarket is in the heart of London's theatreland.
The area is packed with thousands of people through most of the day and night.
An investigation was launched by the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command.
The suspect vehicle has been removed from the scene for detailed forensic examinations.
Detectives will be looking at CCTV footage from the area surrounding the Haymarket and interviewing witnesses, including staff from the nightclub.
Congestion charge cameras, which recognise number plates and run 24 hours a day, will be able to track the route of the vehicle into the capital.
Officers are keeping an open mind about who was behind the foiled attack.
Sky's Tim Marshall said: "Sources say security services are working on the theory that the timing is because Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. This is day one.
"If this is true, and I stress this is just a theory, it goes on to say the message is that although you have a new prime minister, the terror continues."
Marshall said the target was probably civilians because there are no major political institutions in the area.
Former head of the Flying Squad John O'Connor said the attacker had most probably "bottled it" and was likely to be a homegrown terrorist.
There has been major traffic disruption to the area, with several roads shut.
Piccadilly Circus Tube station is open but restrictions are in place.
New Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is chairing a Cobra meeting about the terror scare and will then report to the Cabinet.
Enhanced security measures have been put in place at the Houses of Westminster in the wake of the incident.
The discovery of the car bomb comes just under two years since suicide attacks killed 52 people in the capital.
Another 784 were injured when four bombs exploded on London's transport network on July 7, 2005.
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