London Nail Bombings 1999: Horrible terrorist attack that left 3 dead and a little boy with a nail in the skull

In 1999, a series of bomb attacks targeted minority communities in London. These attacks specifically targeted the black, Bangladeshi and LGBT communities – 23 years later, Londoners still remember the terrifying incidents.

Known as the London Nail Bombs, the three attacks took place over three consecutive weekends in April. The first took place in Brixton on Saturday April 17 to target the black population of south London, a bomb that was made with fireworks and left in a sports bag with 4 inch nails.

Reports said the bag was first left at Brixton Market before traders became suspicious and moved it to a less crowded area which ended up outside the Icelandic supermarket. The explosion took place at 5:26 p.m. and injured 48 people, including a 23-month-old boy who was left with a nail driven into his skull.

READ MORE: Murder of a Sikh teenager that led to the 1979 Southall race riots

A bomb exploded outside Iceland in Brixton, targeting the black community

The following weekend, Saturday April 24, a second attack took place which was intended to take place in Brick Lane, east London. The region is known for its large population of Bangladeshis. But again, with any luck, a passerby noticed the suspicious bag on a sidewalk and moved it into the trunk of a car. As they were phoning the police to report it as a lost item, the bag exploded in the car, BBC News reports.

It was later discovered that the terrorist, David Copeland, intended to place the bag in the middle of the busy Brick Lane Sunday market – however, he mistakenly thought it was Saturday. The blast went off around 6 p.m. that day and injured 13 people.

A 23-month-old boy was caught in the <a class=attack and a nail went through his skull” content=””/>
A 23-month-old boy was caught in the attack and a nail went through his skull

Although 23 years have passed since the attack, residents of East London still remember that day. MyLondon spoke to Koyer Ahmed, who was 17 at the time of the East London attack.

He said: “I was around that day as I live in Tower Hamlets and I heard the noise and the smoke as I was nearby I can describe the chaos and the feelings within the community and myself afterwards and the weeks to come, but no one close to me was injured and fortunately no one was killed in the bombing.

“I was in college at the time and I remember the girls being worried about the attacks going on because there was a video on a news channel of an armed member of Combat 18 giving a date for all people of color to leave the UK or they will start shooting.”

Terrorist David Copeland was sent to prison for the attacks
Terrorist David Copeland was sent to prison for the attacks

Another local said: “I remember it like it was yesterday. I can’t believe it was almost 23 years ago. I was nine years old and I was almost there with my dad trying to get a sweet and spicy kebab but it was closed.”

A week after the attack, a third explosion took place on April 30 at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho on Old Compton Street. This time the target was the LGBT community. The attack took place in a crowded area due to the start of the bank holiday weekend. A bag had been placed inside the pub and exploded at 6.37pm while pub manager Mark Taylor investigated it.

Three people were killed including a 27-year-old pregnant woman, Andrea Dykes, and 79 were injured. Four people also had to have their limbs amputated due to their injuries.

Nazi posters were found in David Copeland's bedroom
Nazi posters were found in David Copeland’s bedroom

David Copeland, then 22, was arrested on May 2, 1999 in connection with the attack. He was a neo-Nazi activist and a former member of two political groups, the British National Party and then the National Socialist Movement – he was convicted of murder and sentenced to six life terms in prison in 2000.

In his confession, Copeland admitted his intentions, he said: “My main intention was to spread fear, resentment and hatred throughout this country; it was to cause a race war.”

He added: “If you’ve read The Turner Diaries you know that in the year 2000 there will be the uprising and all that, racial violence in the streets. My goal was political. It was to cause a race war in this country. There would be a reaction from ethnic minorities and then all white people would vote for the BNP.”

He was also asked why he attacked minority groups and he replied: “Because I don’t like them, I want them out of this country, I believe in the master race,” reports the BBC.

Unzela Khan, Race and Diversity

Now that you’re here, let me introduce myself.

I’m the Race and Diversity Correspondent for MyLondon, and I enjoy writing about stories related to ethnic minorities.

The stories I’m most proud of are those where I can gain insight into the experiences of individuals, like this powerful independent woman who fled Eritrea and ended up opening her own salon in Brixton.

I also enjoy supporting ethnic minority businesses and learning about the experiences and inspirations of the owners behind their menus, for example the story of this Chinese bakery.

My own interests and experiences also intertwine with my stories so that readers can get a glimpse of my South Asian heritage, as you can see in this story about Karak Chai that still excites me so much!

Although I was born and raised in London, I would say I am very connected to my own culture as a British Pakistani who is fluent in Urdu.

This year I became a finalist in the British Muslim Awards in the Media Achiever of the Year category – and I hope to make a difference every year with my work.

You have a story? If so, contact us by emailing [email protected]

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