Ambulance workers saw smoke coming from a Mercedes and checked it out. From the AP:
Police thwarted an apparent terror attack Friday near the famed Piccadilly Circus in the heart of London, defusing a bomb made of a lethal mix of gasoline, propane gas, and nails after an ambulance crew spotted smoke coming from a silver Mercedes outside a nightclub.
The bomb in the city’s theater district was powerful enough to have caused “significant injury or loss of life” – possibly killing hundreds, British anti-terror police chief Peter Clarke said.
Britain’s new home secretary, Jacqui Smith called an emergency meeting of top officials, calling the attempted attack “international terrorism.”
“We are currently facing the most serious and sustained threat to our security from international terrorism,” she said afterward. “This reinforces the need for the public to remain vigilant to the threat we face at all times.”
Police planned to examine footage from closed-circuit TV cameras in the area, Clarke said, hoping the surveillance network that covers much of central London will help them track down the driver of the rigged Mercedes.
Officers were called to The Haymarket, just south of Piccadilly Circus, after an ambulance crew – responding to a call just before 1:30 a.m. about an injury at a nearby nightclub – noticed smoke coming from a car parked in front of the club, Clarke said.
A bomb squad manually disabled the bomb.
I’ve been to Piccadilly Circus. It’s packed with retail stores, restaurants, night clubs, and a lot of people. It would have been devastating if that bomb had gone off.
The car was parked in front of a night club called Tiger Tiger. It was ladies night as well.
Update: According to Fox News British terror units are also looking for another vehicle in a car park on Park Lane that is linked to the car bomb in Haymarket.
Update II: The Times Online is reporting that the bomb in the Mercedes was packed with gas and nails and, had it gone off, would have produced a “fireball the size of a house.”
Update III: Was today’s bomb plots done by or inspired by al Qaeda?
Senior police and Whitehall sources today said the failed attempt to inflict mass murder in central London was the work of al-Qaida or those inspired by its ideology.
“You only have to read past cases of those convicted for terrorism to realise they have been plotting to blow up nightclubs and putting gas cylinder bombs in cars,” one senior source said.
Counter-terrorism sources said the car bomb found in Haymarket – one of London’s main nightlife districts – was similar to car bombs used in Iraq.
Update IV: Apparently, a warning appeared on a radical Islamic website that warned London would be bombed:
An Islamic fanatic predicted a terror blast in London – hours before today’s thwarted bomb attack on a West End nightclub. The chilling message, posted on a jihadist internet forum, warned: “Today, I say, Rejoice, by Allah,London shall be bombed.” Meanwhile, an international manhunt was launched tonight to find the gang – believed to be linked to al Qaeda – that came within moments of blowing up hundreds of revellers in a London nightclub.
As the capital remained on high alert, fresh details emerged of the ‘massive’ car bomb – primed with petrol, gas canisters and nails – discovered by police in the heart of the West End. It was reported tonight that the bomb was to have been triggered by a mobile phone.
Park Lane, on Hyde Park’s eastern edge, is closed tonight from Marble Arch to Hyde Park corner, with a 200-metre cordon around a suspicious vehicle in an underground car park.