IRA Bomb Explodes at London Art Gallery; Rail Stations Closed
The Irish Republican Army set off a firebomb Sunday inside the National Gallery, one of the world’s premier art museums, but none of the institution’s priceless paintings were damaged, police reported.
The bomb was set off about 3:30 a.m. in the bookshop of the museum’s new Sainsbury wing, presumably by a timing device, but it did little damage, according to director Neil MacGregor.
The National Gallery was able to open its doors to the public later Sunday, and visitors were able to see the acclaimed Renaissance collection above the bookstore and a special showing of the Queen’s pictures in a gallery below the bombing site, which was just off the street entrance hall.
British Rail closed all its stations in London today after a pre-dawn explosion at a southwest London station and a telephone threat, authorities said.
Subway trains also were ordered not to stop at stations that also serve British Rail commuter and intercity lines. No injuries were reported in the pre-dawn blast and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The explosion occurred at about 5:30 a.m. on tracks at the busy Clapham Junction station. No immediate reports were available on the extent of the damage, wire services reported.
Sunday’s bombing of the art gallery and today’s rail station blast followed three firebomb explosions in department stores in northwest London on Saturday, which caused slight damage with no reports of injuries.
Scotland Yard detectives said the IRA is using teams of young women to plant incendiary bombs in a Christmas-season campaign to disrupt life in the British capital and to damage the economy by frightening shoppers into staying at home.
In admitting responsibility for the blasts, the IRA declared in Dublin that “active service units” had carried out the London attacks.
Members of Parliament demanded Sunday that Home Secretary Kenneth Baker crack down on the “scourge and menace” of the IRA terrorists.
“They must be a very, very sick people to attempt an exercise like that,” said Ivor Stanbrook, a Tory Parliament member. “This latest outrage shows the government has got to do far more to crack down on terrorism.
“That means spending a lot more money and devoting a lot more resources to the task of finding out who is responsible and apprehending them.”