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UK police launch manhunt after car bombs found

British police remain on high alert as they continue the search for a man who was seen running away from a car packed with inflammable substances. Two Mercedes loaded with petrol, gas canisters and nails were found in London on Friday.

The rigged cars were discovered just two days after Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as British Prime Minister. Explosives experts were called in and managed to defuse both devices after a tip-off to police.

The first bomb was planted in the heart of London's theatre-land. Witnesses reported seeing a Mercedes being parked erratically near an American Express office before the driver ran away.

An ambulance crew spotted smoke coming from the car at about 2 am local time.  Later, the bomb squad was called in, and officers successfully defused it.  The car was packed with a mix of nails, petrol and propane.

“What we have in London, is very clear tried and tested systems, procedures in place, on how to deal with it. What we often do is, our overriding objective is to protect the scenes, put in place cordons, to make sure those particular areas are properly searched,” Tarique Ghaffur, Assistant Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, explained.

It comes two days after Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as Prime Minister. Some analysts say this could be significant, but Mr Brown has already warned he will be no soft touch on terror.

“We should allow the police to investigate this incident and then report to us. But this incident does recall the need for us to be vigilant at all times and the public to be alert at any potential incidents. I will stress to the cabinet that vigilance must be maintained over these next few days,” the Prime Minister said.

Hours later, a second bomb was discovered in another Mercedes, illegally parked in the West End. It was towed away and impounded at a lot near Hyde Park. Police said the bomb was powerful enough to have caused significant injury or loss of life, and contained the same explosive materials. 

Police say both cars are obviously linked, and are investigating a possible al qaeda plot.

Meanwhile, many Londoners say they are undeterred by the threat of terror.

“Well we were just at work and we were told to evacuate because the bomb was in the car park underneath us,” said Dennis Spence, construction site worker.

Intelligence services say they are keeping an open mind as to who might be responsible for the failed bomb attacks.

In the meantime, the incident will present an early examination of Gordon Brown's approach to tackling terrorism at home.