Bombing Brings To 19 Toll Of Bungled IRA Attacks In Past Year
BENBURB, Northern Ireland (AP) _ A bungled guerrilla bombing of a village police station killed a 67-year- old Roman Catholic civilian and his 13-year-old granddaughter and injured eight people, police reported.
The outlawed Irish Republican Army, fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland, claimed responsibility in a statement issued to news organizations and apologized, called the deaths ″tragic.″
″The IRA has nothing to gain by the deaths of civilians and in fact has much to lose in terms of support,″ it said.
The mainly Catholic IRA wants to unite the predominantly Protestant province with the 95 percent Catholic Republic of Ireland under socialist rule.
A press officer at Belfast police headquarters said the part-time police station in Benburb, 35 miles west of Belfast, was unstaffed and locked up for the night during Wednesday night’s car bomb attack.
No security forces personnel were injured.
Police said the explosion extensively damaged the police station and up to 12 nearby homes. It was the latest in a string of botched IRA attacks that have killed at least 19 civilians in the last year and forced the IRA to issue repeated apologies.
The police press officer, who declined to be identified, said the bomb was concealed in a van left near the police station. It exploded as Barney Lavery and his granddaughter Emma Donnelly, both from prominent local Catholic families, drove past the station.
The two had given a ride to an elderly woman and dropped her off moments before the bomb exploded at 10:50 p.m., hurling their car into a field.
The press officer said the guerrillas gave police two telephone warnings, but that there were no security forces in the area to clear it before the bomb exploded.
″The IRA would know full well that the (police) station was unmanned at that time,″ he said.
A Catholic priest, the Rev. Matt Mulroe, gave the church’s last rites to the two victims as they lay in the wrecked car.
The eight injured civilians were taken to South Tyrone Hospital in the town of Dungannon about five miles away. Police said the most seriously hurt had a broken arm.
They said four of the eight were hospitalized, the rest treated and released.
Police said the van was stolen. They said the family that owned it was held at gunpoint while the van was driven to its target. The family was later released unharmed.
On Tuesday night, guerrillas fired a rocket-propelled grenade at two police jeeps at Castlewellan 25 miles south of Belfast, but missed and demolished a butcher shop.
The Soviet-made RPG7 anti-tank rocket narrowly missed a crowded pub.
Benburb is eight miles from the village of Loughgall, where last year police and troops lying in ambush after a tip-off killed eight IRA guerrillas as they bombed the local police station.
The worst bungled attack occurred in November last year when an IRA bomb killed 11 Protestant men, women and children at a memorial service for the dead of two world wars at Enniskillen, 70 miles west of Belfast. The bombing, intended for British soldiers, created a wave of anti-IRA revulsion around the world. The IRA admitted it had made a grave error.