Sixty paratroopers, alerted by gunfire from a sentry shooting at suspects, fled to safety Monday minutes before three bomb blasts damaged two living quarters at a British army camp near here, the Defense Ministry said.
Only one man was slightly injured by flying glass in the predawn attack on the base of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.
The outlawed Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility in a statement to a news agency in Dublin, Ireland.
Armed Forces Minister Archie Hamilton told British television a sentry spotted two intruders at Tern Hill Barracks near Shrewsbury, about 160 miles northwest of London, while the paratroopers were asleep. When challenged, the intruders ran across the camp.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said the sentry fired shots at the two men as they fled but neither appeared to have been hit. The guard then alerted the sleeping men, who evacuated their barracks.
Fourteen minutes later the explosions hit the living quarters, blowing the front wall out of one and starting a fire that destroyed the roof of the other.
"But for the alarm and the evacuation, we could have had a tragedy on our hands," an army spokesman said.
Police believe the suspects escaped in a hijacked car after forcing out its two civilian occupants. Police set up roadblocks around the area.
The IRA, seeking to oust Britain from Northern Ireland, last struck in Britain in August, when a bomb blast wrecked living quarters at Inglis Barracks in north London, killing one person and injuring nine.
Three months later, an anti-terrorist police squad raided a south London apartment and confiscated ammunition and explosives. No one was arrested, raising fears that an IRA guerrilla cell was still operating in Britain.