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Blasts jolt New York

Washington, May 5: Four days after Americaís law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials claimed a diminished domestic threat from terrorism, New Yorkers were today rudely reminded of September 11, 2001 when two bombs exploded at the British consulate in the Big Apple.

The explosions shattered windows of the consulate building, but there were no reports of any casualties.

The bombs were kept in concrete flower boxes commonly used in New York to prevent vehicles from driving into buildings and went off shortly before 4 am when no one was around the building.

Investigators determined that the bombs had been made from toy grenades ' one the size of a pineapple, another the size of a lemon ' which had been filled with gunpowder. Police commissioner Ray Kelly said no timing device was used.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said: 'We do not at this point have any idea who did it or a motive'.

He described the explosions as having been caused by 'a relatively unsophisticated explosive device'.

There had been no warnings or specific threats to the consulate, he added.

British missions in the US are among the most protected and the consulate in New York, about a mile from the UN headquarters, is an area heavily occupied by permanent missions to the UN.

A foreign national found loitering near the building shortly after the bombing was not considered a suspect although he was being questioned. Police were also reviewing security cameras installed at the premises.

The bombing, on the day Britons are going to polling booths to determine Prime Minister Tony Blairís political future, came as a shock to early morning commuters in New York.

Only four days ago, Capitol police chief Terrance Gainer, had said here about domestic terrorism: 'We are breathing easier. The imminence of a threat seems to have diminished. We are just not as worried as we were a year ago, but we certainly are as vigilant.'

John Brennan, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, had told the local media that he agreed with Gainerís assessment. 'Progress has been made'.

Bush administration officials have, instead, been underlining the threat of terrorism outside the US and to American interests abroad.

Stock futures fell when news came in about the explosions.

New York has been on high alert since the September 11, 2001 and the incident will, therefore, have a psychological impact far greater than any physical damage.

This morning authorities blocked off the area and closed streets caused rush hour disruptions. Trains on one subway line bypassed the stop near the consulate.

Kelly said other diplomatic missions in New York were checked as a precaution but nothing was found.

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