Omagh double agent blamed

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The Independent Online

The Omagh bomb may have been built by a British double agent allowed to complete his work to protect his cover, it was claimed last night.

Amid growing furore over allegations that the Royal Ulster Constabulary was told of Real IRA plans to detonate a device two days before the August 1998 attack, new claims have emerged suggesting two previous explosions went off within hours of warnings that the same bomb maker was at work.

Speculation mounted that these were prepared by the same man and allowed to detonate as handlers tried to keep his identity under wraps.

A former agent, using the name Michael Clarke, indicated a failure to stop the bomb maker could point to a mole in the dissident republican terror grouping. "It makes perfect sense for the army or the intelligence services to allow the progress and delivery of a device of some nature to preserve and protect the safety of an agent," he told Channel 4 News. "I believe that's possibly the case."

Security forces decided not to intervene in the mistaken belief the explosions would not pose a risk to life, it was reported. One of the two other bombs at the centre of the fresh allegations went off in Banbridge, Co Down on 1 August 1998, injuring 35 people.

It was said to have been of a similar size as the device used to kill 29 people in Omagh two weeks later, and the same code word was used.

Neither the MoD nor the RUC was prepared to comment on the claims.But the Chief Constable has already insisted his men were unaware of any advance threat.

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