A powerful car bomb has rocked west London, injuring at least six people. Police suspect a dissident Irish Republican Army group.
The bomb, which police say contained around 40 kilograms of home-made explosive, went off just before midnight local time, around 100 meters away from Ealing Broadway station, a busy rail, subway and bus terminal in west London.
Although a warning was phoned in minutes before the blast, Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Alan Fry says it was not specific. "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."
At the time, many people were on the streets, leaving pubs or heading for restaurants and night clubs.
The detonation caused major damage to nearby shops. Many windows were shattered and the noise could be heard up to a kilometer away.
Police say it looks like the work of the Irish splinter group, the Real IRA, which has targeted London on previous occasions over the past two years.
The blast comes at a critical time in the Northern Ireland peace process, with political parties there considering a proposal by the British and Irish governments designed to break a current stalemate in the province and lead to full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on a trip to Mexico, is being kept informed of developments. Through a spokesman, he condemned the violence and said dialogue is the only way to achieve a permanent peace in Northern Ireland.