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The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"The bombing both depressed and galvanised the civil rights movement"
 real 28k

Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 00:36 GMT 01:36 UK
Two accused of racist bombing
bomb
Bombing was one of the era's most shocking crimes
Two long-time suspects have surrendered to face murder charges over the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four black girls and helped strengthen the civil rights movement.

Thomas E Blanton Jr and Bobby Frank Cherry are both former members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mr Cherry's attorney, Mickey Johnson, said he was charged with eight counts of murder - two counts covering each of the four dead girls.

Bombing investigation
1963-Bomb kills four
1965-Four men named but not charged
1971-Case reopened
1977- Chambliss convicted
1997-Case reopened
17 May 2000-Blanton and Cherry on murder charges

He said one count was for intentional murder and the other involved "universal malice" because the bomb was placed where it could have killed many more.

Both lawyers said their clients deny wrongdoing. Mr Cherry is said to be ill.

"He wants the world to know his story, and he thinks he'll be vindicated," said Mr Johnson.

Church killings

The two men are the only two living suspects in the bombing, which killed the girls at church on a Sunday morning.

It was one of the most shocking racial crimes of the civil rights era.

Church members were gathered for Sunday service on 15 September, 1963, when a dynamite bomb planted outside demolished a wall.

cherry
Bobby Frank Cherry was taken into custody

Eleven-year-old Denise McNair and three 14-year-olds, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins were killed.

Moderate whites became more vocal in their opposition to segregation following the explosion, which came just months after police used dogs and fire hoses to confront black marchers led by the leading civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King.

The initial investigation brought no charges, though the FBI named the four Ku Klux Klansmen as suspects.

An investigation in the 1970s resulted in the murder conviction of suspect Robert Edward Chambliss, who died in prison in 1985 while serving a life term.

A fourth suspect, Herman Cash, is dead.

After Chambliss' conviction, the case was reopened in 1980 and 1988, but no new charges were brought.

It was reopened yet again in 1997.

The bombing is also the subject of director Spike Lee's Oscar-nominated 1997 documentary, "4 Little Girls."

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