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N. Ireland Car Bomb Injures Several

February 21, 1998

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ A car bomb exploded late Friday near a police station in a picturesque market town southwest of Belfast, injuring several people but none critically, police said.

The attack came hours after the British and Irish governments barred the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party from participating in Northern Ireland’s peace negotiations because of two Belfast killings blamed on the Irish Republican Army.

Police evacuated pubs and other businesses along the main street of Moira, 20 miles southwest of Belfast, 10 to 15 minutes before the blast damaged the police station and a neighboring house, and shattered windows in other buildings. Police said about 10 people suffered shock or injuries from flying glass and were being treated in the nearby Craigavon Area Hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

``There was a lot of dust in the air and smoke and a couple of windows were smashed at the bottom end of the town,″ said Gavin McCartney, who was just starting the overnight shift at Moira Bakery a quarter-mile away.

He said scores of people had gathered behind a police cordon.

Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said Sinn Fein would be readmitted to the talks March 9 _ but only if no more violence was blamed on the IRA.

Either the IRA or another anti-British splinter group opposed to the IRA’s 7-month-old truce could have been responsible for the Moira attack. It looked certain to increase demands by Northern Ireland’s pro-British Protestants to keep Sinn Fein excluded longer from the talks.

A group of anti-British militants calling themselves Continuity IRA have claimed responsibility for a series of vehicle bomb attacks on rural towns since July 1996.

Continuity IRA, believed to include disaffected IRA members in its ranks, is opposed to the mainstream Sinn Fein-IRA movement’s willingness to pursue negotiations. It claimed responsibility for a similar bomb attack Sept. 16 that wrecked the police station and nearby businesses in Markethill, another town southwest of Belfast, the day after Sinn Fein entered the negotiations.

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