Victims' relatives watch videos of Omagh aftermath

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The Independent Online

A number of victims' relatives attending the Omagh bomb inquest yesterday became distressed after viewing video footage of the immediate aftermath of the attack, which killed 29 people in the town in 1998.

A number of victims' relatives attending the Omagh bomb inquest yesterday became distressed after viewing video footage of the immediate aftermath of the attack, which killed 29 people in the town in 1998.

Support staff, including medical personnel and clergy, comforted those who were upset by watching three amateur videos.Footage of the dead and injured, including a victim whose legs had been blown off, was shown. Most of the dozens of relatives did not watch the videos in the inquest room, but saw them in a family room set aside at Omagh leisure centre.

A Presbyterian minister, Robert Herron, secretary of the Omagh Churches Forum, said: "It was the most difficult moment of the inquest so far for the families. The pictures were certainly gruesome, but the sounds as well had an impact on them because it helped them remember. It was the exact moment of the aftermath of the bombing, it was very difficult for them."

The Police Federation has retained lawyers to represent Royal Ulster Constabulary officers giving evidence, after the close questioning of officers involved in passing on warnings received before the explosion.

Some of the relatives said they were surprised at what they saw as the hostility of the questioning of police witnesses by some of the 20 lawyers appearing at the hearing. Stanley McCombe, who lost his wife, Ann, said: "The police are not on trial here. The people who planted the bomb should be facing questioning."

John Leckey, the coroner, is to rule today on a request for a local republican councillor, Francis Mackey, the chairman of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, to be called to give evidence. The movement is regarded as the political wing of the Real IRA, which carried out the bomb attack. Some relatives have also asked that a man charged in the Irish Republic with an offence related to the bombing should be compelled to appear.

The inquest heard from a mapping expert that the bomb crater was between 39 and 40 yards beyond the cordon put in place by police before the blast. The roof of the car containing the bomb was blown 71 yards on to the roof of a building.

In Belfast, efforts are continuing to negotiate an end to the loyalist paramilitary feuding that has claimed three lives.But even as moves to set up exploratory talks were under way, police found guns believed to have been held by one of the groups, the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

Two men were arrested after the seizure of a machine- gun, an assault rifle and a pistol at Malvern Way in the loyalist Shankill Road district. An RUC spokesman said the operation had saved lives.

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