The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command has launched an investigation after three improvised explosive devices were sent to various locations across London.
Waterloo Railway Station, Aviation House at City Airport and the Compass Centre on the grounds of Heathrow Airport all received suspicious packages in what Scotland Yard believes to be a series of linked incidents.
It is believed that at least two of the packages had Republic of Ireland postage stamps on them and therefore, the Irish police are assisting with the investigation.
Senior sources pointed to previous letter bomb attacks in Britain and Northern Ireland in 2013 and 2014 as to why violent Republican dissidents are the most likely senders of the explosive devices, however investigators are not jumping to conclusions as to the motive of the attacks.
The A4-sized white postal bags containing yellow jiffy bags were found to be capable of igniting a small fire when opened but police believe that whoever sent the packages did not mean to kill.
Former Senior Intelligence and Security Officer, Philip Ingram MBE thinks it is difficult to pinpoint the motives behind the attack, commenting: “The reasons behind the attack are unclear at the moment. There doesn’t seem to be a logical connection between three transport hubs in London and then Glasgow University. However, we have seen in recent months an upsurge in dissident Republican terror activity and this could be linked.
“In January, the ‘New IRA’, an amalgam of the ‘Real IRA’ and ‘Republican Actions Against Drugs’ groups, detonated a crude car bomb outside the courthouse in Londonderry, they were blamed for parcel bombs sent to Army recruiting offices in Great Britain in 2014 and have been blamed for killing two prison officers, one in 2012 and another in 2016. The rhetoric around a hard border on the island of Ireland and the ongoing political stalemate in Northern Ireland are factors that could stimulate dissident Republican activity. However, it is too early to tell if these parcel incendiary devices were the action of this grouping.”
As to the best ways to protect against this type of threat, Philip continued: “This type of threat can and is defeated in three ways. The first is the intelligence services keeping a close watch on different groups and looking for indicators and warnings of increased activity and ‘chatter’ about use of specific methods. This obviously depends on your intelligence sources being in the right place at the right time.
“The second way is through the use of technology and vigilance in the postal system. Educating postal workers on what suspicious devices may look like, indicators and warnings to spot and have this backed up by the use of screening through chemical detectors, X-ray and dogs, both in the postal system and also in post rooms. Unfortunately it is not possible to screen all mail!
“The third is public awareness and vigilance and this is driven by the likes of the Met Police ‘Action Counters Terrorism’ campaign and educating staff in organisations to look out for suspicious packages and have clear procedures in place if something suspect is identified.”
No arrests have been made and inquiries are continuing.