LONDON -- A large explosion ripped through the center of a Northern Ireland university town, causing several injuries and extensive damage and shortly afterward police in London discovered a huge cache of explosives during a routine traffic stop.
London police early Saturday found a truck packed with explosives and evacuated a north London neighborhood after the traffic stop led to a footchase in which one officer was shot and wounded, a spokesman said.
In Northern Ireland, the large bomb explosion late Friday injured at least three people and caused heavy damage to both commercial and residential properties in the center of the university town of Coleraine.
The bomb was placed in a stolen van parked outside a department store in an area known locally as the Diamond and exploded around 11 p.m., setting fire to several large shops and other premises, police said.
A caller claiming to represent the IRA warned police in Coleraine by telephone shortly before the bomb exploded Friday night, but the police said it did not give them enough time to evacuate people from the area.
One elderly resident living nearby told reporters he was sitting at home with his wife when the bomb exploded. 'The windows came in and the ceiling dropped on my wife,' he said. 'Her knitting was blown out of her hands.'
The incidents followed a series of bomb attacks and recoveries of explosives in London attributed to the outlawed Irish Republican Army, which is waging a military campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland.
The wounded London police officer, Ray Hall, 38, was hospitalized in satisfactory condition after suffering gunshot wounds to his head and back, a police spokesman said.
London police sealed off the scene of the accident and evacuated area residents who spent the rest of the night at a nearby school building.
Police said they had no estimate of the quantity of explosives inside the truck and could not immediately attribute the incident to the IRA or any other group.
The incident in London began around 1 a.m. when Hall and his partner stopped the truck carrying 'a number' of occupants in the Stoke Newington section of northern London to make a routine vehicle check, the police spokesman said.
The truck stopped but its occupants immediately fled. Hall and his partner chased two of the men into the yard of a nearby house, where one of the men produced a gun and fired, grazing Hall's head and hitting his back.
One witness told reporters afterward he saw Hall lying in the road while he was driving along Belgrade Road.
'He was lying half in the road and half on the pavement,' Kelvin said. 'I went over to him. He was bleeding from his nose. He said, 'I have been shot.''
The two men from the truck escaped after the shooting but one later was apprehended by other officers, police said. Two guns were recovered at the scene of the shooting, the police said.
The incidents came two weeks after the seizure of 77 pounds of Semtex explosives and timing devices in east London. Two days later, the IRA was blamed for a car bomb that exploded outside the prime minister's offices on Downing Street.
Other recent bomb attacks in London included an explosion Oct. 7 in a trash can near Piccadilly Circus that injured five people, and an explosion at a pub in Covent Garden four days later that killed one man.
There was heightened security in the capital already Saturday for the Lord Mayor's Show parade.