'IRA group behind' devices sent to Army careers offices in Canterbury and Chatham, Scotland Yard reveals
A group calling itself the New IRA has claimed it was behind devices sent to two Army recruitment centres in Kent.
Scotland Yard today said a codeword recognised with the dissident Republican group was used to claim responsibility for a string of crude but potentially explosive packages delivered to offices across the south east last week.
Anti-terror police found a device at the Army careers office in Canterbury on Thursday - two days after another was delivered to a centre in Chatham.
An Army bomb disposal officer walks towards the scene in St Peter's Street. Picture: Chris Davey
Others were delivered to Brighton, Oxford, Slough, Aldershot and Reading.
They were described as being "crude" in design, but having the potential to injure.
A major counter-terrorism operation was launched and Downing Street said the packages had the hallmarks of "Northern Ireland-related terrorism".
Prime Minister David Cameron had held a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee to discuss the government's response to the crisis.
Police officers at the city centre cordon. Picture: Chris Davey
In a statement today, Scotland Yard said: "We are aware of the claim of responsibility for the devices that were sent to army recruitment centres in England last week.
"The claim was received on Saturday, 15 February by a Northern Irish media outlet using a recognised codeword.
"The claim was allegedly made on behalf of the 'IRA'.
"The public is urged to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline 0800 789 321."
A bomb disposal team at The Brook in Chatham last week. Picture: Suzanne Williams
The first of seven suspect packages delivered to military recruiters was sent to the Army careers office in Dock Road, Chatham, at about 11am last Tuesday.
Bomb disposal experts from the Ministry of Defence were called to the town centre and evacuated the office.
After several hours, police said the device had been "made safe".
Then Canterbury was at the centre of another bomb scare at about midday on Thursday.
Officers set up a large cordon down St Peter's Street and shoppers were being told to avoid the area.
A team from the Royal Logistic Corps left after around five hours and the device was sent off for forensic tests.
Police and bomb disposal teams outside the Chatham sorting office
And then on Saturday, a suspect package sparked a bomb scare at the Royal Mail sorting office in Chatham.
Staff at the Best Street office called police at 9am to report the parcel and a 100m cordon was set up around the site.
But after the item was examined by bomb disposal experts, it was confirmed as a false alarm.
Royal Mail and military staff had been told to be extra vigilant and screening procedures for mail to recruitment centres is now under review.
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