IRA bomb could have caused huge loss of life

A massive IRA bomb defused by army experts in Ulster last night would have caused widespread death and destruction, security forces said.

The 1,000lb device was left fully primed on a building site in Strabane, Co Tyrone, yards from a hotel packed with 250 guests. Police believe it was intended for a passing RUC patrol, but would have caused huge civilian loss of life if it had exploded.

The bomb attempt comes days after the IRA said it was not involved in a "phoney war" and that there was little hope of a ceasefire before a general election.

It is the latest in a spate of murder bids on police and troops in the past week and further confirms fears that the IRA's campaign of terror has escalated.

Yesterday's bomb was discovered on a building site on the main Omagh Road within 50 metres of the Fir Trees Hotel after a warning call from the IRA.

The hotel, 26 homes and nearby factories were all evacuated. Superintendent Mervyn Hood of the Royal Ulster C onstabulary said: "This was certainly no phoney attack, it was designed deliberately to kill and maim security forces and anyone who got in their way."

He said the device contained between 1000lb and 1500lb of explosives held in three 45 gallon drums with a firing pack and command wires attached.

Hours before yesterday's discovery a police officer was slightly injured when an explosive device was thrown at a patrol in the Co Tyrone village of Pomeroy, an attack described by the RUC as "murderous". In the past week there have also been attacks on police vehicles in Dungannon, Co Tyrone and Lurgan, Co Armagh.

The chairman of Strabane District Council, Edward Turner said he would now have no choice but to advise business people against future investment in the area. "We've had something in excess of 500 bombs here over the years," he said.

In London, security around the House of Commons was noticeably tightened as Downing Street rejected an appeal by Gerry Adams in a fax to John Major for the Prime Minister to authorise official talks with Sinn Fein to "kickstart" the stalled peace process. The Prime Minister's office said it was "hypocritical" of the Sinn Fein president to call for talks with the Government while the IRA was planting bombs and planning terrorist attacks.

The hostile response from Number Ten underlined the anger among ministers at the IRA's warning last week that there would be no renewal of the ceasefire before the election.

"The UK Government is not going to authorise anyone to have discussions with Sinn Fein in the absence of a ceasefire. It is hypocritical to talk about peace when bombs are being planted in Northern Ireland and possibly elsewhere - who knows?" said a Downing Street spokesman.

Andrew Hunter, chairman of the Northern Ireland committee of backbench Tory MPs, said it was up to Sinn Fein to make the first move. But he added: "Dialogue has to be meaningful and based upon an unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire and there is nothing to talk about while the Provisionals are still intent on ... violence."

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: "John Major has said he has new ideas for the peace process, but he wants to leave them until after the election. We would prefer to bridge this gap now rather than have a vacuum for 12 weeks until the election is over."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture