LONDON -- A fire bomb attack Sunday killed seven people in an illegal Chinese gambling den in the city's Soho district and Scotland Yard said a vendetta might have provoked the incident.
Detectives said a citywide alert had been issued for two and possibly more Chinese men seen racing away from the Loon Fung Chinese supermarket in the heart of London's entertainment district after the 1:30 a.m. bombing.
Police believe a gasoline bomb was hurled into the basement, touching off a fire that quickly engulfed players gambling into the early morning hours. All of the dead were Chinese, but identities were not immediately available.
'The victims never had a chance,' said Dr. Kenneth Hines, who crawled into the flaming three-story building with two firefighters in a futile rescue attempt. 'They were asphyxiated very quickly.'
Two policemen were seriously injured and a firefighter was hurt by flying glass and debris in a second explosion, apparently caused by flames reaching the building's gas supply.
Police said they were treating the fire as a murder investigation because of a reported dispute late Saturday at the Chinese supermarket. There were two other major fires, apparently unrelated, in the Soho area Saturday night.
In August 1980, 37 people died in a fire bomb attack on another unlicensed club in Soho.
There were fears in the Chinese community that the latest attack signaled the outbreak of renewed gang warfare, but police stressed it appeared to be a personal vendetta.
'We are fairly certain there is no political terrorism involved,' a spokesman said. 'We are investigating if there is some kind of dispute involving members of the Chinese community.'
Police sources said they believed the supermarket basement was used as an illegal gambling club by Chinese residents.
The building burned until after dawn Sunday, then flared up again later in the day. Only three of the seven bodies had been recovered by late Sunday.
The blast came 2- hours after police had been called to the supermarket because of a disturbance involving a number of Chinese men in a red and black car.
Police failed to find them and left the scene, the spokesman said.