IRA marks 25 years with bomb in Bognor

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THE IRA last night marked the 25th anniversary of the deployment of British troops in Ulster with terrorattacks on south- east England. An incendiary bomb wrecked shops in Bognor Regis and a second device, planted under the Palace pier at Brighton, was detonated by security experts in a controlled explosion.

The Bognor blast damaged at least 15 shops on the east side of London Road, between Bedford Street and Sudely Road, showering the area with flying glass. There were no reports of casualties as police, responding to the coded warning to a local branch of the Samaritans at 5.15pm, cleared the area. A police spokesman said no precise location was given. The bomb went off nearly 40 minutes later at 5.57pm.

Sussex Assistant Chief Constable Richard Childs said: 'Yet again, the IRA has launched an indiscriminate attack on ordinary people going about their normal business, with no concern for the consequences of their actions.'

A similar coded warning call was given shortly afterwards claiming devices had been planted atthe Palace Pier in Brighton, approximately 15 miles down the coast. Two controlled explosions were carried out on suspect packages on the pier and a mile-long stretch of the area near the Old Steine was cordoned off overnight. Police and bomb disposal experts will continue their search this morning. Sussex police were last night liaising with Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch.

Bognor resident Den Burgess said he and his wife were having tea when they heard a huge bang. 'Our windows rattled even though we're some way from the town centre,' he said.

The alert echoed a similar attack by the IRA a year ago. On 13 August 1993 seven incendiary devices were detonated in stores at Bournemouth. As anti-terror police searched the town afterwards, a large Semtex bomb was found strapped to the girders of the pier, and would have destroyed it had it had gone off.

The incendiary bomb has become a popular means of attack for the IRA. It first surfaced in the latest mainland campaign in April 1991, when a smouldering hold-all containing 20 firebombs were found on a platform at Preston railway station, Lancashire. Two days later, nine devices ignited in seven shops in Manchester city centre, while four more failed to detonate. Since then, dozens of firebombs have been detonated or found in shops around the mainland as the IRA sought to cause the maximum disruption and terror.

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Allison Pearson, page 22