LONDON — A suspected Irish Republican Army car bomb rocked London's financial district Friday night, killing at least two people and injuring 80 others, police said. A second car bomb exploded hours later in northwest London, but no one was injured.
The first explosion ripped through the City of London district at 9:20 p.m., shattering hundreds of windows, shaking sidewalks and reverberating miles away.
Hours later, a van packed with explosives blew up early today at an intersection in London's Staples Corner, eight miles from the financial district at the busy junction of the M1 motorway and the North Circular Road beltway. No one was hurt, police said.
Warnings using known IRA code words were made before each blast, Scotland Yard said.
After the first explosion, a huge area of London's business district, including the Bank of England, Royal Exchange and the Stock Exchange, was sealed off.
Hundreds of financial workers, some of them in tuxedos and evening gowns, were in the area after offices closed to celebrate the Conservative Party's reelection Thursday, which caused stock prices to surge.
"It was absolutely terrifying, I was shaking like a leaf, and I just ran like hell," said John Walker.
At least two people were killed, one person was in critical condition, 14 were seriously injured and 65 suffered minor injuries, police said.
One hospital's staff reported that two girls covered in blood were brought in. One, age 7, might need surgery to save an eye, hospital personnel said.
The attack appeared to be the answer of the Irish Republican Army, fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland, to the return to power of Conservative Prime Minister John Major.
In the election, Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the IRA political wing, lost his parliamentary seat in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Cmdr. George Churchill-Coleman, head of the British police anti-terrorist squad, said the first bomb was made with "at least 100 pounds of high explosive. It was very large."
No immediate claim of responsibility was made, but Churchill-Coleman said that an IRA code word was used when a warning was given.
The IRA has claimed responsibility for recent bombings in London, mainly directed at rail lines, as part of its campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland.
Home Secretary Kenneth Baker saw it as the IRA reply to the ballot victory by Major, who heard the blast across London as he worked on a Cabinet reshuffle in his No. 10 Downing St. office.
"Once again the terrorists have tried to make their point through violence and not the ballot box," Baker said.
Facades of office buildings, including the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, were shattered, witnesses said. Unconfirmed reports said ceilings collapsed in several buildings.
Steve Marshall, a Reuters news agency technician working in a nearby building, said:
"It has wrecked loads of buildings. The Commercial Union insurance building is in tatters."