Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Terrorist Activity Puts City of London on Guard but Critics Contend the Blockade Could Be an Incentive to Bombers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Terrorist Activity Puts City of London on Guard but Critics Contend the Blockade Could Be an Incentive to Bombers

Article excerpt

A MASSIVE anti-terrorist cordon around London's financial district is being criticized by civil security experts and even by police as more likely to provoke terrorist outrages than prevent them.

The measures, which include checkpoints manned by armed police, are aimed at heading off terrorists using vehicles to plant explosives. But one leading critic describes the cordon as "a charade." Closure of 18 roads leading into the famous Square Mile took effect Monday.

In April Irish terrorists planted a bomb in a truck in the financial district, killing one person and causing extensive building damage. A year earlier an explosion killed three people and caused damage worth nearly British pounds1 billion (US$1.5 billion) at the Baltic Exchange.

Faced with the threat of more terrorist outrages by the Irish Republican Army, the Corporation of London, the Square Mile's ruling body, decided in May on a scheme to divert the 7,500 cars that normally enter the Square Mile every hour.

The cordon, dubbed a "ring of steel" by police but consisting mainly of plastic posts, is operating 24 hours a day and should continue for at least a year. On the first day, thousands of motorists, some unaware of the security measures, were caught in traffic as they used the eight remaining points of entry into the Square Mile. Police said the system was working reasonably well.

Workers in banks and other finance houses left their cars at home and traveled to work by train or bus. Motorists who arrived in their cars were met by armed police (unusual in British cities), and some were asked to allow their cars to be searched.

Before the cordon took effect, Scotland Yard anti-terrorist experts warned that the policy was dangerous. A Scotland Yard source said it was "probably inevitable" that some such measures had to be taken, but added: "There can be no guarantee that the road blocks and security checks will deter the bombers. They have a record of responding to a challenge and could decide to risk taking a bomb into the financial district, or detonate a device elsewhere in London."

Most of the pressure for the security arrangements came from businesses and finance houses worried that penetration of the area by another bomber would undermine the international credibility of the Square Mile. …

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