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The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"Underlying tensions here are never far from the surface"
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BBC NI's Paul McCauley:
"Suspicion must fall on dissident republicans"
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Irish Army spokesman Kieran McDaid:
"The explosives could have been very dangerous"
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Friday, 11 August, 2000, 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK
Major NI bomb attack 'thwarted'
The explosives were packed into two milk churns
The explosives were packed into two milk churns
Security forces in Northern Ireland say a major bombing has been averted by the capture of a large batch of explosives.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary said they believed the explosives were destined for Londonderry, where more than 15,000 members of the Protestant loyal order, the Apprentice Boys, are due to hold a parade on Saturday.

The explosives were seized on Thursday night when a van crashed through a police checkpoint in the centre of Derry.

The RUC followed it in a high speed chase to the Irish border with Donegal, where it was abandoned.

While chasing the white Astra van the RUC contacted the Irish police, who found it abandoned in Donegal at Imlick near Carrigans village.

The explosives, which were packed into two milk churns, were made safe after a controlled explosion by the Irish Army.

A second vehicle, which has been discovered five miles away at Manorstown Cross, near Bridgend, across the border from Derry, is being examined by the Irish army.

Dissident republicans

The Gardai said the possibility that dissident republicans were responsible for the bomb was only one line of inquiry they were following.

Garda Superintendent James Gallagher
Garda Superintendent James Gallagher: "Very worrying development"
Garda Superintendent James Gallagher said the co-operation between his force and the RUC could well have saved lives.

"The co-operation between the RUC and ourselves has certainly foiled a major bomb attack," he said.

"We are not going to speculate yet who is likely to be involved.

"But it is heinous act to go around with a 500lb bomb in a city area... it's a very worrying development."

'Death and misery'

In a statement the RUC said they had "prevented a major bombing which could have cost lives and massive damage to property".

They said it was "outrageous that when many people had worked hard to achieve a new mood in the run-up to the Apprentice Boys parade, such as a small unrepresentative gang of thugs should be planning further death and misery".

Irish Army spokesman Kieran McDaid described the explosives find as significant.

"From a military point of view the explosives were quite dangerous when it is configured as a bomb.

"Obviously 500 lbs of explosives is a lot and can cause considerable damage to anywhere that it was placed," he said.

There have been a number of recent discoveries of explosives linked with the dissidents who are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and the current political process in Northern Ireland.

The Mayor of Derry has called on dissident republican groups to disband.

Sinn Fein Councillor Cahan Crumley said he believed dissidents were behind the attempted attack in the city ahead of Saturday's Apprentice Boys parade.

Meanwhile, the Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume has described the people who abandoned the bomb in Donegal as "facists".

Mr Hume said he was appalled by the incident.

He said: "The people who are behind it are enemies of the Irish people, north and south."

Reacting to the discovery Democratic Unionist Party assemblyman Gregory Campbell said: "The continuing activity of so-called dissident republicans makes a nonsense of the government's demilitarisation process.

"For army bases and checkpoints to be removed at a time when there is an escalation in activity from organisations which carried out atrocities like the Omagh bomb is grossly irresponsible.''

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See also:

10 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
'Flagship parade deal provides hope'
06 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Bombing blamed on dissidents
19 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissident republicans: Threat to peace
03 Dec 99 | Northern Ireland
The Apprentice Boys' march
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