A No 10 spokesperson has said that four suspect packages sent to army recruitment offices, including one on St Giles’, Oxford, bear “the hallmarks of Northern Ireland related terrorism.”
Prime Minister David Cameron chaired an emergency meeting of the government’s crisis committee COBRA to discuss the packages, which were also found in Brighton, Slough and Kent.
The area around St Giles’ was first closed at around 10.30am after a suspect package was delivered to the army recruitment centre.
A spokesman for Downing Street said: “Seven suspect packages have been identified as containing small, crude, but potentially viable devices bearing the hallmarks of Northern Ireland related terrorism.
“These have now been safely dealt with by the police and bomb disposal units.”
Students at St Benet’s Hall were unable to re-enter the building while the cordon was in place, and access to other buildings next to the army recruitment centre near the junction with Little Clarendon Street was also limited. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that this building was the site of the scare.
Traffic was being diverted via Banbury Road, and the police tape line was extended past St Giles’ Church Hall just before 1pm. According to Twitter, police helicopters were also seen above St Anne’s College.
Most of the police presence, as well as a bomb disposal unit from the Royal Logistics Corps, left the scene at 2.20pm and at around 3.30pm military staff were allowed to return to their office.
The contents of the packages have now been sent off for forensic examination.
Det Supt Stan Gilmour stated: “When a suspect package is reported we have a routine response which means we may need to evacuate the area if necessary until we can be sure it poses no threat to the public. Whilst this can cause concern and disruption for local communities, it is a necessary precaution until we know what we are dealing with.”
“Advice has been sent to the Royal Mail and to the MOD to ensure staff remain vigilant and contact police if they have any concerns about packages,” he added.
The incident follows other bomb scares in other Army Careers offices this week. A suspect package was found in Chatham, Kent on Tuesday, while another was safely removed from an office in Aldershot, Hampshire yesterday.