LONDON -- The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility Saturday for a bomb blast in the financial district that killed three people, while experts predicted the terrorist group will strike again in the wake of the Conservative Party's election victory last week.
The blast that injured 94 people Friday evening was followed by an explosion hours later that hurt no one but caused serious damage at what is during the day one of the huge capital city's busiest traffic junctures.
The IRA, fighting for an end to British rule in Northern Ireland, has warned of a renewed campaign of bombings in Britain. A runners' marathon and a major soccer game were scheduled in London Sunday, and security was said to be taut.
The first of the two bomb blasts was widely regarded as the terrorists' message to the British government following elections Thursday that kept the ruling Conservatives in power and bounced the IRA out of Parliament.
'This was done with complete callous disregard for human life,' said George Churchill-Coleman, commander of the Anti-Terrorist Squad. 'Any organization that engages in a criminal act which involved young children really is beyond contempt.'
The explosion killed a 15-year-old girl and a man in his early 20s. The body of an unidentified person was discovered Saturday afternoon in the shattered building of the Baltic Exchange.
Queen Elizabeth sent a message of sympathy to the families of the dead and wished speedy recovery to the injured.
The IRA claimed responsibility in a phone call to an Irish newspaper. It did not mention the second bomb, which blew up at Staples Corner in north London.
Police, however, say warning calls for both incidents were made with the same recognized IRA code word.
The first bomb exploded around 9:20 p.m. in the heart of London's financial district, where it had been left in a van.
Police said 94 people were injured and 26 people were still in the hospital, some 'seriously injured.'
The financial district remained cordoned off Saturday. The bomb causing an estimated $3.5 million in damage.
Buildings that suffered structural damage may have to be demolished, officials said, and some buildings in the financial district may not reopen Monday. A police officer said one building, believed to be the Bank Indo-Suez, was virtually destroyed.
British Prime Minister John Major reportedly heard the explosion from his office on Downing Street, where he was putting the final touches to the post-election Cabinet shuffle that he unveiled Saturday.
In a statement issued in Dublin, the IRA claimed the loss of life was due to police failure to react promptly to telephone warnings.
Police, charging the bomb was designed to cause 'maximum damage and injury,' said the warning call at 8:55 p.m. was deliberately misleading, giving them an incorrect location and not allowing enough time to find the explosive device.
The blast may have been spurred by Thursday's election results.
The ruling Conservatives led by Major defeated the opposition Labor Party in a victory giving the Tories a fourth straight term in office, a feat unequaled since the Napoleonic era.
Gerry Adams, leader of the Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, lost his seat in Parliament. The seat was held but never used by Adams, yet the defeat was seen as a blow to the IRA.
The second bomb exploded in a van at Staples Corner in north London less than four hours after the first blast. There were no injuries.
The explosion destroyed several buildings and reportedly will disrupt traffic for months at one of Britain's busiest elevated highway interchanges, which also may have to be rebuilt.
Traffic chaos was expected as soon as Sunday, when travelers for both the annual London Marathon and a major soccer championship game would have been passing through the area.
A spokesman for the marathon said Saturday that security for the race, which will pass about a half-mile from the site of the north London blast, already was as tight as it could be.
A bomb threat last month forced a delay in the start of a soccer match in northern London, after an unexploded device was removed from a nearby subway station.
British Home Secretary Kenneth Baker condemned the attacks as 'an act of defiance against democracy,' as well as against his Conservative Party.
Police chiefs expressed surprise that more people were not killed in the first explosion, which tore through an area where many people were out celebrating the Tory election victory.
Experts said the bombs weighed more than 100 pounds each and were believed to be the biggest detonated on the mainland since World War II. They said the immense size suggests the IRA has a large supply of explosives and is likely to strike again.
'There are still explosives hidden,' Professor Paul Wilkinson told the London Broadcasting Corp. radio. 'It is clear that they (the IRA) still have operatives who have not been caught.'