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Police Search for Clues in London Bombing - 2001-08-03

British police are searching for clues in a London bombing. The blast is being blamed on a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army that is opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process. The bombing, which injured seven people, comes at a critical stage in the negotiations.

Scotland Yard detectives sealed off a square-kilometer section of west London Friday as they search for evidence in the powerful car bombing.

Police are urging Londoners to stay alert in the aftermath of the blast, which authorities blame on the Real IRA, a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army.

The explosion came just before midnight Thursday. Some of the wounded had just left nearby pubs. Among them was 24-year-old Richard Seaman.

"I just sort of remember a huge flash of light," he said. "It was very hot. I was walking with my girlfriend. She was to my right. She sort of banged straight into me and we went both straight onto the floor and just got covered in debris. It seemed to keep going for about 10, 15 seconds."

The chief of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism squad, Alan Fry, says it is a miracle that no one was killed.

"This was a calculated, evil act by people who are seeking to maim and kill," he said. "There can be no other explanation. The task of police was made much more difficult, if not impossible, by the failure to give a precise location, indeed, to give a wrong location."

The explosion comes at a critical time for the Northern Ireland peace process.

Leaders of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, met in the Irish border town of Castlebellingham Friday to discuss a joint British-Irish plan to rescue the floundering peace process. Sinn Fein so far has been lukewarm to a British offer to cut the size of its military garrison in Northern Ireland and reform the province's Protestant-dominated police force.

Northern Ireland's Unionist politicians will meet to consider the peace plan on Monday. They remain skeptical that the IRA will agree to disarmament provisions called for in the document.

The parties face an August 12 deadline to resolve their differences or risk the collapse of Northern Ireland's coalition government.