47 injured as IRA mortar bombs hit shopping area

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The Independent Online
FORTY-SEVEN civilians and members of the security forces were injured, three seriously, when three mortar bombs fired by the IRA exploded in and around a police station in a busy shopping area in the centre of Newry, South Armagh, yesterday.

Senior police officers condemned the attack just before 9am as an 'outrage' by 'imbeciles' and said it was a miracle no one had been killed as the area was crowded with people going to work.

A number of elderly people and a girl, two, were hurt as glass and shrapnel rained down, and last night one soldier was critical in hospital in Belfast, and another soldier and a police officer were being treated for serious injuries.

Leading churchmen and politicians said the attack which put the lives of so many civilians at risk amounted to 'absolute criminality' and again showed the hypocrisy of the IRA talking peace while making war.

The heavily fortified station has been attacked by mortar bombs many times. The most serious incident was in 1985 when nine Royal Ulster Constabulary officers died. After that attack, strengthened 'blast walls' were built.

The bombs' launch pad, a red Leyland tipper truck, had been hijacked in the Forkill area of South Armagh the previous evening from a family who were held hostage overnight. The lorry was parked on a building site about 100 yards from the station and the terrorists drove away in Renault 21 cars, leaving the three mortars to go off on a timing device, which lobbed them over a main street, shops and houses.

Anthony McCabe, who was opening a shop flanking the station, described the devastation as the mortars hit. 'We heard a dull thud,' he said. 'Next minute the ground lifted and shook. We shouted to everyone to get out. As we went through the door the second went off. There was a hail of glass and stones. We kept running towards the bottom of the street. A couple of nuns were badly shaken. Then the third went off and the whole place was raining with glass. One fellow was running and his hand was open like a book. Blood was running down his arm.'

One mortar landed in the road outside the station, wrecking shops and cars, while two more landed in the courtyard of the police station.

Dr David McGaughey, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, went to the scene and called on the Government to use all its powers to clamp down on the terrorists.

Irish police were yesterday questioning two men about the discovery of a huge arms cache. The haul - found beneath a shed near Athboy, Co Meath - included two anti-aircraft guns, a flame-thrower, assault rifles, ammunition and bomb-making equipment.