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URGENT IRA Claims It Set Bomb That Killed 11

November 9, 1987

ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland (AP) _ The Irish Republican Army today admitted planting a bomb that killed 11 civilians and injured 63 but said it intended to kill security forces and the device went off prematurely.

In a statement issued to news agencies in Dublic, the Irish capital, the outlawed nationalist guerrilla group said it deeply regretted Sunday’s bombing.

The statement said an IRA unit planted the bomb with the aim of killing British soldiers and Northern Ireland police, but had not triggered the radio- controlled device.

Instead, it said, a British army ″high-frequency scanning device″ had triggered the bomb.

The statement, coded in a way that vouched for its authenticity, said there was a ″battle for supremacy between the IRA and the British army’s electronic engineers in the use of remote control bombs. We deeply regret what occurred.″

It added: ″In the present climate nothing we can say in explanation will be given the attention which the truth deserves nor will compensate the families of the injured or bereaved.″

In Belfast today, a lone gunman killed a Roman Catholic construction worker and five Catholic youths were shot and wounded from a passing car.

The attacks - 75 miles away from this town near the Irish border where the bomb exploded - were apparent reprisals by members of the province’s Protestant majority. None of the gunmen was caught.

Also in Belfast, police today found a 1,200-pound bomb ″primed and ready for use″ in two oil drums in the back of a hijacked van, said Belfast police Sgt. Michael Glover. The driver was arrested and a British army bomb-disposal team took five hours to disarm the device, he said.

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, legal wing of the outlawed IRA, issued a statement in Belfast regretting the bombing, the province’s worst terrorist attack in five years.

″On behalf of the Republican people I extend sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of those killed and injured yesterday in Enniskillen,″ Adams said. ″I do not try to justify yesterday’s bombing. I regret very much that it occurred.″

Another Sinn Fein official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press the bombing was ″a colossal mistake, and something went seriously wrong.″

Meanwhile, Tom King, Britain’s top official in Northern Ireland, urged people not to become vigilantes because of the attack.

″The terrorists are going to fight and the more they get cornered the more vicious they may become,″ he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

But the Rev. Ian Paisley, head of the hardline Democratic Unionist Party, said he could not advise the Protestant community to ″be dignified, don’t do anything, don’t worry″ after the attack.

″The time has now come when we must seriously consider taking the law into our own hands and resist the terrorists,″ Paisley told reporters. ″If we don’t do that then we’ll all be dead men.″

King, the Northern Ireland secretary, told the House of Commons in London today that the bombing was a ″monstrous act″ calculated to stir up sectarian outrage.

He said the IRA may have been motivated in part by frustration at recent setbacks, such as the seizure 10 days ago in France of a ship carrying a large munitions consignment with known IRA figures among the crew.

The IRA is fighting to drive the British out of the predominantly Protestant province of Northern Ireland and unite it with the Roman Catholic Irish Republic.

The bomb ripped through a community center 15 minutes before the start of a Remembrance Day ceremony for Roman Catholics and Protestants who died in two world wars. Witnesses said the blast blew out a wall of the center, which collapsed, crushing several people.

Twenty-one of the 63 men, women and children injured in the attack remained hospitalized today, five of them in ″very serious condition,″ police said.

On the streets near the gutted community center people moved in little knots, stopping to look at bloodstains, talking quietly about the blast.

Seven of the dead were over 60 years old and at least 13 of the injured were children.

″The whole town is numb,″ said newsstand proprietor Richie Benson, whose store is 150 feet from the blast site.

Benson, a Protestant born in Enniskillen, said the town’s Roman Catholic and Protestant communities live side by side - not in separate neighborhoods.

″There’s always a dread of this happening, but nobody would have dreamed of it happening yesterday,″ Benson said. ″People were out there honoring their dead, and ended up digging them out of the rubble.″

Catholic hotel-keeper Gerry O’Reilly, whose Celtic House hotel is next door to Benson’s newsstand, said Catholics and Protestants alike ″just feel revulsion.″

Restaurants and bars in the town closed early Sunday in respect for the victims in the blast in this town of 13,000 about 10 miles from the Irish border. It was the worst terrorist attack in Northern Ireland since December 1982 when a discotheque patronized by British troops was blown up, killing 17 people.

Prime Minister Charles Haughey of Ireland condemned the Enniskillen bombing as did British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who called the bombing an act ″desecrating the dead.″

Moments after the explosion, friends and relatives rushed forward to try to dig out the injured.

In the frantic digging a soldier found his mother dead.

Queen Elizabeth II, who led the main Remembrance Day ceremony in London, called the attack an atrocity.

The bombing brought to 86 the number of people killed this year in Northern Ireland terrorism, the worst year since 1982, when 97 died. Since 1969, 2,611 people have died, 1,800 of them civilians.

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