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Sunday, August 16, 1998 Published at 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK

Omagh bombing kills 28

The bomb exploded on a busy summer's day

The BBC's David Sillito: "A town shattered"
Nine children are among the 28 people killed in the Omagh car bombing, it has emerged.

Thirteen women - one of whom was pregnant - and six men died, the authorities have said. About 220 people were injured or maimed.

Fifty-three people remain unaccounted for but this is understood to include 20 of the dead who have still to be formally identified.

BBC correspondent Mark Devenport: 53 people unaccounted for
The blast in the packed town centre hit Protestants and Catholics alike. Among the dead was an 18-month-old infant.

The attack in Co Tyrone - the worst since violence began in Northern Ireland 30 years ago - brought condemnation from all of the province's political leaders.

'An appalling act of savagery and evil' - Blair

[ image: The bomb was planted in a maroon Vauxhall Astra]
The bomb was planted in a maroon Vauxhall Astra
The political wing of the IRA, Sinn Fein, issued an unprecedented attack on the bombers.

Martin McGuinness, the party's chief negotiator, gave his own statement of contempt for the perpetrators.

"This appalling act was carried out by those opposed to the peace process," he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Terrorists will not win"
The Queen expressed sympathy for the bereaved and injured, while UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the bombing was an "appalling act of savagery and evil".

He pledged to catch the bombers and said: "These people will not win."

Northern Ireland's First Minister, Ulster Unionist David Trimble, insisted the IRA and Sinn Fein were in part responsible for the death toll.

"Make no mistake about it, this bomb would not have been made or been detonated if Sinn Fein-IRA had handed over its explosives and weapons," he said.

Suspicion falls on 'Real IRA'

No group has claimed responsibility for the bomb, which was planted in a maroon Vauxhall Astra.

RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan: "I just can't find the words to describe the horror inflicted on the people of Omagh"
RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said: "Undoubtedly we will be focusing our attention on those who call themselves the 'Real IRA'.

"It is possible and probable that they carried out this attack."

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, is flying back from Greece, where she had been on holiday, to visit Omagh.

Scenes of utter carnage

[ image:  ]
People who survived the car bomb blast in a busy shopping area of the town described scenes of utter carnage with the dead and dying strewn across the street and other victims screaming for help.

The bomb went off while police were clearing an area near the local courthouse after receiving a telephone tip off.

The warning was unclear and people were being directed towards the device when it went off shortly after 1500 BST (1400 GMT).

Publican Nigel O'Kane said: "It was totally indiscriminate. Police were pushing everyone towards the bottom end of the town not knowing the bomb was there.

"It went off outside one of the busiest shops in the town flattening it and the one beside it."

The blast came on the final day of the town's week-long annual carnival.

Relatives' fears

A trail of blood leading up the steps of Tyrone County Hospital illustrated the destruction.

The BBC's Gareth Jones reports on the devastation in Omagh
As dozens of worried relatives gathered outside, porters cleaned blood from the trolleys used to ferry the injured and dying.

Catholic priest Father John Ryder was almost lost for words. He said the scene inside the hospital was "chaotic" but staff were doing marvellous work.

[ image: The area around the courthouse was being cleared when the bomb went off]
The area around the courthouse was being cleared when the bomb went off
"So many families uncertain, just coming along and not knowing what to do. They are distraught because some of them don't even know yet whether they've anybody here or not."

Paul McCormick, of Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, said: "The injuries are horrific, from amputees, to severe head injuries to serious burns, and among them are women and children."

[ image: The Queen: Expression of sympathy]
The Queen: Expression of sympathy
Hospital spokeswoman, Glynis Hendry, said a number of critically and seriously injured people were being treated.

"A lot of staff have come in from off-duty and a lot of staff from the community have come to help us," she added.

A number of people responded to their appeal for blood and were liasing with the laboratory.

The RUC has set up a casualty bureau to deal with inquiries from the public. The number is 01232 673371.

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