URGENT Precede COLCHESTER Three British Soldiers Killed in Northern Ireland
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Three British soldiers were killed in a bomb explosion in Northern Ireland today, and a British army sergeant and his wife were wounded in a car bombing in eastern England, police said.
The three soldiers were on patrol in a Land-Rover near Mayobridge, a rural area six miles from the border with the Irish Republic, when the bomb exploded, the Royal Ulster Constabulary said. Unconfirmed reports said a fourth soldier was seriously injured, but no other details were immediately available.
The off-duty sergeant suffered serious leg injuries and his wife received less serious, unspecified injuries when a car bomb exploded at the British army’s headquarters in eastern England, Essex police said.
No group claimed responsibility for either attack. But suspicion fell on the Irish Republican Army, which has often targeted the security forces in its campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland and unite the mainly Protestant province with the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Irish Republic.
Police and Home Office Secretary David Waddington blamed the IRA for the Colchester attack. The explosion there came less than 24 hours after Defense Secretary Tom King visited the Royal Anglian Regiment at the Goojerat Barracks in the town, which is 50 miles northeast of London. King was Northern Ireland secretary until a Cabinet reshuffle in July.
The sergeant and his wife were taken to Colchester General Hospital. A Ministry of Defense spokesman, speaking anonymously, said the sergeant suffered very serious leg wounds.
An army spokesman, also speaking anonymously in keeping with British custom, said the explosion involved a car in the married quarters at the barracks and touched off a fire.
Kim Bryan, son of the manager of the local pub, told Independent Radio News that his mother ran up the road after hearing the explosion and saw the car on fire and two people inside. They were pulled out by others who rushed to the scene.
Police and the army sealed off part of the town, the third-largest garrison town in Britain, and with its Roman links, the oldest. Homes near the scene of the blast were evacuated as bomb squad officers conducted an investigation.
About 4,500 troops are based at Colchester, which is army headquarters for the 11-county eastern district and home of the 19th Infantry Brigade. Many civilians in the town are employed by the military.
The Ministry of Defense stepped up security at barracks and military establishments across Britain following the IRA bombing Sept. 22 at the Royal Marines Music School in Deal, which killed 11 men.
The IRA also has claimed responsibility for a spate of bomb and gun attacks on British servicemen and their families stationed in West Germany. A soldier’s wife was killed this summer and a 6-month-old girl died last month with her father, a Royal Air Force corporal, in an IRA car bombing.