IRA's message in blood
In Belfast it's peace talks; in Manchester it's war
The attack was not immediately claimed, but it was swiftly condemned as the work of the IRA by the British and Irish prime ministers, who swore that the drive to bring peace to the province would not be halted.
The bomb exploded just after 11.20am close to both the Arndale shopping centre and Marks and Spencers. It sent a "white shower" of glass over terrified shoppers as they fled the scene. Police had been clearing the area, where an estimated 75,000 people had been shopping or at work, after telephone warnings that included a codeword.
They had identified the suspect vehicle, a Ford van bearing the words "Jack Roberts Transport" which, it was revealed last night, had been given a parking ticket just two hours earlier. Bomb squad officers, using a remote-control device, were examining it when it went off. One officer was seen running from the scene seconds before the explosion.
Thousands of shoppers were left shaken and shocked and up to 200 were injured, mostly by flying glass. By last night all but 15, one a pregnant woman, had been discharged from hospital. Dr Kevin Mackway-Jones, emergency consultant at Manchester Royal Infirmary, said: "The pregnant woman was thrown through the air for some distance and she has some abdominal pain. She is heavily pregnant but the baby's heart is still beating." It is believed the baby is due in eight days.
A number of the other casualties were believed to be German and Russian football fans in Manchester for today's Euro 96 match.
News of the bomb was brought to John Major as he attended Trooping the Colour in London on the Queen's official birthday. It came just five days after the opening of the peace talks in Belfast, from which Sinn Fein is excluded because there is no IRA ceasefire.
Mr Major described the attack as a "dreadful act", demanded a ceasefire and called on Sinn Fein to condemn the action. He added: "If the IRA think they can shift the resolve of any government with this action, they are cruelly mistaken." He was backed by Tony Blair, the Labour leader, and Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein's president, declined to condemn the attack unequivocally, telling a news conference: "If this explosion ... is linked to the conflict here in Ireland, obviously I regret [it] and I sympathise with those who have been injured." Asked if he would repudiate the bombing if it was the work of the IRA, he replied: "Let's wait until we have some clarity about all of this."
The return of violence was a bitter blow to the British Government, which had been leaning over backwards to make the talks process as acceptable to nationalists as possible.
John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, said: "Brutal, murderous acts of this kind are appalling and cannot be excused or explained away. Sinn Fein continues to associate itself with the IRA, allowing themselves to be used as accomplices in the IRA's cynical news-management strategy, providing political cover when that is needed for IRA actions and credulous acceptance of any IRA statement, no matter how contradictory."
The force of the blast was so great that the gable end of the nearby Arndale shopping centre was totally destroyed. Windows were shattered up to half a mile away and several small fires broke out. The explosion was heard up to seven miles away.
Chief Constable Malcolm Cairns, of Greater Manchester police, said last night that many lives had been saved by the successful evacuation. "It was a beautiful June day with tens of thousands of people in the city centre," he said. "Within the hour we had got everyone out of the line of sight of the bomb, and we went further than the usual guidelines."
Further reports, page 3
At the talks, page 7
South Korea ferry passengers who were told to stay put 'got trapped' aboard sinking ship
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness 'unqualified' to testify
Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness contradicts athlete's version in new blow for defence team
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
- 5 Mrs Doubtfire 2: Robin Williams set to star in sequel to 1993 comedy
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...