N. Ireland Stores on Bomb Alert
PORTADOWN, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Police urged shopkeepers in a Northern Ireland city to search their stores today after three suspicious fires broke out just hours after a firebomb was found and defused.
The army found a firebomb hidden among clothing in a store in a major shopping area of Portadown, 40 miles northwest of Belfast, late Wednesday afternoon. Authorities defused the timer before the device went off. There had been no warning or claim of responsibility.
Within hours, a furniture store next door caught fire and suffered extensive damage before firemen got the blaze under control.
Later, there were sudden fires at two more shops a few streets away.
Police said they believe the fires were likely caused by firebombs, and put businesses on alert.
Meanwhile, about 100 Protestants rallied in Portadown in support of the Orange Order fraternal organization, which is still insisting on its right to march through a hostile Catholic neighborhood. Security forces have blocked the group from entering the area.
Police prevented several hundred who gathered at one end of Garvaghy Road _ the street at the center of the dispute _ from getting through Wednesday night.
Soldiers and police, enforcing an order by the government-appointed Parades Commission, prevented members of the Orange Order from marching down the road on July 5.
Orangemen gathered on a nearby hillside every night for a week, but the number of protesters fell after arsonists killed three young sons of a Catholic woman July 12 in Ballymoney, 40 miles northwest of Belfast.
Also today, a magistrate ordered a man charged with setting off a car bomb last month that injured a 13-year-old boy to remain in prison until an Aug. 26 court date.
Patrick Bernard Wall, 32, is accused of setting off the explosion in the town of Newtownhamilton on June 24, a day before Northern Ireland’s election for a new assembly in which Catholics and Protestants share power. He denies the charge.