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Real IRA blamed for BBC blast

Bomb scene
The bomb spread debris over a wide area  

LONDON, England -- A dissident Irish Republican terror group is suspected of planting a bomb that exploded outside the British Broadcasting Corporation's main office.

One London Underground worker suffered minor injuries in the attack, believed to be the work of the real IRA, said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Fry, the head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorism Branch.

The large device went off as experts tried to carry out a controlled explosion on a suspicious taxi, causing minimal damage to BBC Television Centre in Shepherd's Bush, west London, but spreading debris over a wide area.

Fry said two coded warnings were issued to a London hospital and an unnamed charity before the blast, giving the same codeword as when a device was planted on the railway line at Acton, west London, last year.

Workers at TV Centre and residents nearby were evacuated.

Missile attack

BBC duty news editor Laurie Margolis, who saw the explosion, said he was amazed by the force of the blast.

"I have seen things going off in Beirut, Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia," he said.

"We knew from the police activity something was going to happen, but the actual force of the explosion was very substantial. It was a fireball that seemed to fill the whole road between BBC TV Centre and White City Tube station."

He added: "What is left of my car is outside the office. I haven't seen it, but I'm not too optimistic."

Fry said a dissident Irish republican group was believed to be responsible "and that is where we are commencing this investigation."

Asked whether he suspected the Real IRA, he said: "That would be my expectation."

He said the explosion would represent an escalation of the group's terror campaign on mainland Britain.

"We have been predicting, since Christmas, that the mainland, and London in particular, were to be subject to terrorist attacks. This was one of those attacks. I can only fear that we will see more."

The main Irish Republican Army (IRA) is on ceasefire following the landmark 1998 Good Friday peace accord with the British authorities, but the Real IRA, formed by a group of breakaway dissidents in 1997, has opposed the agreement all along.

The Real IRA's name was seared on the public consciousness in 1998 when it claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack that killed 29 civilians in the Northern Irish town of Omagh.

Authorities on both sides of the Irish Sea believe the group has an "active service unit" in London that staged attacks on the rail track and a bridge last summer and a missile attack on the headquarters of the British government's external intelligence agency in September.

Last month a 14-year-old boy lost a hand and was left blinded by a torch bomb at a Territorial Army centre near the site of the latest blast.

Irish dissident groups were being considered as possible suspects in that case and at the time Scotland Yard said it could not rule out the possibility of more bomb attacks.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Omagh remembers -- two years on
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Metropolitan Police: Anti-Terrorist Branch

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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