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British Police Pursue Leads in Foiled Bombings

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British Police Pursue Leads in Foiled Bombings

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British Police Pursue Leads in Foiled Bombings

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Police in London have stepped up patrols today after the discovery of two car bombs that were packed with gasoline, propane and nails in the West End theater district.

NPR's Rob Gifford joins us from London. Rob, thanks for being with us.

ROB GIFFORD: Morning, Scott.

SIMON: And we've heard here that police now have a man in sight that they want to catch up with.

GIFFORD: I think they have two people that they want to catch up with and that's the two drivers of these two top-of-the-range Mercedes cars that were found yesterday. Police today are scouring the closed-circuit television pictures, of which there are many around the center of London. And they're just trying to put a face and, of course, a name to the two people who parked these cars packed with explosive materials in Central London.

SIMON: What does it feel like on the street today?

GIFFORD: Well, it's very strange. It's a very rainy day actually, but I guess what's a little bit surprising today and yesterday actually is the sort of - I wouldn't use the word complacency quite but business as usual would, I suppose, be the polite way of saying it.

And when you're hearing experts and sources within the government saying this could have been carnage, perhaps you might expect a little bit more concern. And really people are going about their business as usual today.

SIMON: Any further hard evidence or reports that would suggest a link to people outside of the country?

GIFFORD: Well, nothing specific, but a lot of people are pointing to the fact that when the second car was discovered, that really does firm up in some ways the theories that it could be linked in some way to militants abroad.

I mean, several analysts here - again, perhaps they were overstating it a little bit - have said, well, these are the tactics of Baghdad. And perhaps we wouldn't be saying that's an overstatement if the two cars - the bombs had gone off.

But certainly, the car bomb is used extensively in Baghdad and, I think obviously, people are looking towards the international links because, of course, in recent years in London, there have also been plots uncovered, which had links with al-Qaida to blow up venues here in London.

SIMON: With due regard to the competence of Scotland Yard, how much of the discovery of this plot was fine intelligence work and how much was just what amounts to dumb luck?

GIFFORD: It was almost entirely dumb luck, in fact. And certainly Scotland Yard deserve a lot of praise for the intelligence that they have been involved in over the last couple of years. But this one, I think, everybody says it was pure luck - an ambulance crew on an unrelated call was near to this first car. They saw some kind of vapor or smoke coming out of it.

They called the police. The police came. They found it packed with gasoline and propane gas and nails. And they defused it. The same happened with the second car, which had already actually been towed away.

SIMON: NPR's Rob Gifford in London. Thanks very much.

GIFFORD: Thanks very much indeed, Scott.

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