Police find grenade launcher near scene of attack on spy headquarters

LONDON - Police on Thursday found part of a rocket-propelled grenade launcher near the scene of an attack on the headquarters of Britain's MI6 intelligence service, which they believe may have been the work of IRA dissidents.

No one was injured in the Wednesday night attack, and damage was limited to one window and two wall panels on the eighth floor. But it raised fears of a renewed spate of terrorist attacks in London and dealt another blow to the security of the secretive spy agency.

The grenade launcher was found in a nearby park on Thursday afternoon, but police did not yet know whether it had been fired from the same spot. Tests were being carried out to determine its make.

Earlier, police had said the attackers may have used a type of rocket launcher readily available to the Irish Republican Army and the hardline splinter groups which reject a cease-fire.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Fry, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch, told reporters that the missile may have been fired from a range of 200 to 500 yards.

Similar devices had been found in republican arms caches and may have been used in attacks in Britain, he said, adding that the weapons are freely available from arms traders operating in Russia and the former Yugoslavia.

Fry said police are keeping an open mind, but ''clearly the sort of weapon we believe was used in this attack is known to be in the hands of certain groups. They will be uppermost in our minds.''

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which came without warning.

The IRA has observed a cease-fire since 1997. Defectors are believed to be responsible for recent explosions in Northern Ireland and England, including a small bomb that exploded on London's Hammersmith Bridge in June and a bomb planted on railway tracks in west London in July and later detonated by police.

The high-tech MI6 building has an extensive closed-circuit television system and bomb- and bulletproof walls and windows.


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