IRA take blame for Lisburn blast

Bomb aftermath: Emergency talks to rescue peace process as Army investigates security lapse
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The Independent Online
The IRA last night admitted responsibility for the double bomb attack on the Army headquarters in Lisburn, Co Antrim.

A telephone caller using a recognised codeword told the Dublin newsroom at RTE, the Irish Republic's broadcasting network, that two 800lb bombs had been planted and detonated at the army complex on Monday night by IRA volunteers.

The IRA statement claiming the attack said the target had been personnel connected with the barracks and said injuries to any civilians were regretted.

The admission came as the security services set up a high-level police and army inquiry to establish exactly how republicans breached security to smuggle two large car bombs into what has always been regarded as one of Northern Ireland's most secure locations.

Eight people were seriously injured in the attack, one man critically. He suffered a fractured skull, burns to at least half his body and other injuries. Two men and a woman were yesterday described as seriously ill while the condition of four others was given as stable.

Political and clerical figures yesterday appealed to loyalist groups not to retaliate.

Confirmation of the IRA's claim of responsibility for the attack was last night being taken as confirmation that the IRA has concluded substantive negotiations are not on offer from the Major government. The theory is that the republicans believe any moves to resuscitate the peace process will have to await the British general election.

Earlier yesterday a Dublin radio station received a telephone call from a man purporting to represent the "Continuity Army Council" who said that organisation carried out the attack.

The Continuity Army Council has been responsible for half a dozen bombings in the last few years, but although one of its bombs caused serious damage to a Fermanagh hotel in July most of its operations have ended in failure. Even before the confirmation, however, the general view in security force circles was that only the IRA was capable of carrying out Monday's attack.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, cut short his visit to a Northern Ireland investment conference in Pittsburgh to return to Belfast for emergency talks with RUC Chief Constable Sir Hugh Annesley and the Army GOC, Lt-Col Rupert Smith. He admitted there had been a serious security breach but said there were no plans to bring in more troops in its wake.

The president of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, refused to speculate on who had carried out the attacks. This stance is in marked contrast to Sinn Fein's response to the Fermanagh hotel bombing, when the party quickly denied IRA involvement.

Declaring that he was ready for talks with the British government, Unionists and others, he added: "There has been a protracted political vacuum here. If we don't fill that vacuum with real talks then it will be filled with the sort of serious incidents we saw yesterday."

Denying that republicans were trying to spark off a loyalist backlash, Mr Adams said: "Provoking loyalists means the wholesale slaughter of Catholics. It means the killing of members of our party or family members of our activists. I don't think anyone would want to provoke that type of action."

David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist party, which has links with loyalist paramilitaries, appealed to the extreme Protestant groups not to be provoked.