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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Beverley James: Accounts Payable

£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...

Beverley James: Accounts Assistant

£30,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower