Security services expected backlash

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The Independent Online
Security sources have been warning of a violent backlash since police arrested five IRA suspects, shot dead another, and seized explosives in London two weeks ago.

Yesterday, those fears were realised. The attack on the Army's Northern Ireland headquarters was the latest act of terrorism since the ceasefire was brought to a shuddering end at 7.01pm on 9 February when a 1,000lb lorry bomb destroyed a large part of Docklands in east London and killed two people.

Hopes that the Docklands bomb was a one-off were destroyed days later, when police discovered a 5lb Semtex bomb in a telephone box in Charing Cross Road, central London. That device was made safe.

Three days afterwards, Edward O'Brien, an IRA bomber, was killed when his explosive accidentally detonated and ripped apart the bus on which he was travelling in Aldwych.

On 9 March, a small bomb exploded in Fulham, west London, causing minor damage, and on 17 April a device exploded in Earls Court.

A week later, Londoners escaped a far greater threat when two huge Semtex bombs on Hammersmith Bridge, in west London, failed to go off.

On 15 June, the IRA struck outside the capital for the first time in its renewed mainland campaign with a 1-tonne bomb which devastated Manchester city centre, injuring around 200 people. It was possibly the biggest bomb the Provisionals had set off on the mainland.

On 28 June, the terrorists switched tactics again, firing a volley of mortars at the Quebec barracks in Osnabruck, Germany. There were no injuries.

The campaign appeared to have shifted to Northern Ireland on 13 July when a 1,200lb car-bomb devastated the Kilyhelvin Hotel at Enniskillen, injuring 17, but the IRA denied responsibility, suggesting a splinter group may have been to blame.

Two days later, the Metropolitan police scored their first major success, recovering components for up to 36 bombs which they believe would have been used to target public utility installations in the South-east. On 19 July, eight men were remanded in custody, charged with conspiring to cause explosions.

Hopes for a new ceasefire grew in the next two months but were dashed on 23 September when anti-terrorist officers launched a series of dawn raids in west London and West Sussex which resulted in one IRA suspect - Diarmuid O'Neill, 27, being shot dead and five others arrested.

Explosives and arms, which police say would probably have been used in lorry-bomb attacks, were recovered. Four of those arrested were charged with conspiring to cause an explosion and possession of explosives.

The spiral towards renewed full-blown conflict continued as security forces made safe a 250lb car-bomb in Belfast last Sunday. The Irish Continuity Army said it was responsible.

The next day, Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Freedom Fighters inside the top security Maze Prison told their political representatives that they no longer had any confidence in the multi-party talks on the province's future.

Trail of terror that killed the ceasefire

9 February 1996 - Bombing of South Quay in London's Docklands. Two killed, many injuries.

18 February - IRA man Edward O'Brien killed by his own device while travelling by bus in Aldwych.

15 June - IRA struck outside the capital for the first time in its renewed mainland campaign with a bomb in Manchester which injured 200 people.

13 July - Car-bomb devastated Kilyhelvin Hotel, Enniskillen, injuring 17. Irish Continuity Army, breakaway group linked to Sinn Fein, came under suspicion.

15 July - Metropolitan Police seized parts for 36 bombs they believed would have been used in London.

23 September - Raids in London and West Sussex result in IRA suspect Diarmuid O'Neill being shot dead and five arrests.

29 September - Belfast security forces made safe a car-bomb of 250lb of home-made explosives, claimed by the Irish Continuity Army as their own.

7 October - Attack on Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn, Co Antrim, the Army's Northern Ireland HQ.

31 people injured.

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