Multiple sources have now confirmed that a credible threat warning, coded and verified, of a London blast within 24 hours has been made. The warning is believed to have been delivered to an as yet un-confirmed newspaper in Northern Ireland on Sunday night and passed on to the police.
Police in London responded to a series of alerts relating to suspicious objects and closed several streets throughout the day, but no links between these incidents and the threat warning have been confirmed.
There is a strong chance that the threat is a hoax – a common dissident republican tactic – designed to raise tensions and cause disruption in the run up to the Queen’s visit to the Republic of Ireland tomorrow (17 May). The threat did not any specifics about a location or time, and the government has explicitly stated that the threat level to Great Britain from Northern Irish-related terrorism has not risen and remains at substantial, which means that an attack is a strong possibility.
Dissident republicans have certainly revealed their intent to attack the mainland in the recent past. Óglaigh na hÉireann is known to have conducted reconnaissance in central London in early 2011 (see previous Monitors), and last year the Real IRA asserted that they would target the financial sector in London. Furthermore, recent bomb attacks confirm that the dissidents have advanced bomb-making capability.
However, logistical capability of dissident republican groups in London remains questionable. The support networks are far smaller and far less effective than they were during earlier mainland bombing campaigns. The largest bombs in Ulster of late are 200kg vehicle-borne keg/bin bombs, and any attack in London is unlikely to even approach that. More likely would be an attack consisting of a series of small devices; pipe-bombs have been the most common explosive device used in Northern Ireland in the past two years.
It is important to note – especially if the London threat proves to be credible - that the current dissident republican groups have become increasingly careless about causing collateral damage to civilians when targeting police officers with anti-personnel explosives (grenades and bombs), and well-placed secondary devices; recently children found and picked up a viable pipe bomb in north Belfast but it failed to explode.
Whilst we continue to believe that the threat is most likely a hoax, it should still be taken seriously as the intelligence is unclear. All security personnel should remain extremely vigilant and consider precautionary action, particularly in the City of London/Canary Wharf area, at sites associated with the Royal Family (the Royal visit is seen as symbolic of British oppression), and at other perceived iconic ‘British institutions’ across a range of sectors including banking and retail.
In light of the potential threat from small disguised pipe-bombs or vehicle borne-IEDs personnel should watch closely for any suspicious looking packages, unidentified pieces of luggage and vehicles.
All suspicious vehicles and suspicious discarded luggage/bags should be immediately reported by calling 999.
If you think you have seen something suspicious or you are unsure about somebody's activities or behaviour, however insignificant it may seem at the time, call the confidential Anti-Terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.