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Sunday, August 16, 1998 Published at 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK

Nine children among 28 dead

Nine children, 13 women and six men were killed by the car bomb

Click here to watch BBC News 24 coverage of the Omagh bombing.

The Northern Ireland peace process is under strain following the Omagh car bombing which left 28 dead and more than 200 injured or maimed.

The BBC's David Sillito: "A town shattered"
The blast ripped through the centre of the town during peak Saturday shopping.

Nine of the dead are children - five girls including an 18-month-old baby and four boys. Fourteen women, including one who was pregnant, and five men were killed.

Among the dead were three generations of the same family. The three women from Augher, County Tyrone, were a 65-year-old, her 30-year-old daughter, who was heavily pregnant, and her 18-month-old toddler.

[ image: Car bomb exploded in the packed town centre]
Car bomb exploded in the packed town centre
It was the worst single attack in the province in nearly 30 years.

No group has admitted responsibility, but suspicion has fallen on dissident republican groups opposed to the current ceasefires.

Ronnie Flanagan: Investigation will focus on the Real IRA
RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan has announced he is setting up a special task force to investigate the bombing.

"No stone will be left unturned until we bring these people to justice," said Mr Flanagan.

He said the investigation would concentrate on the group known as the Real IRA.

"They are out to murder people for the sake of murdering people. That's exactly what they did yesterday," he told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost.

'Blast of evil'

Tony Blair speaking from Miradoux, France: "The future belongs to the decent people of Northern Ireland "
The Prime Minister Tony Blair cut short his holidays because of the bombing.

Before heading off for Belfast, he condemned the attack as a "blast of evil" perpetrated by a tiny group of fanatics.

"I just kept thinking last night of those poor people, those poor murdered people," said Mr Blair.

"Yesterday at this time this was just another normal day for them, leading normal lives with the normal balance of cares and worries and hopes, and now by this blast of evil their lives are gone."

During his stay in Belfast, Mr Blair is meeting Northern Ireland political leaders

The government has insisted it will not let the bombing undermine peace efforts.

John Prescott: "Our hospitals never ever let us down"
The Deputy Prime Minster, John Prescott, said: "We are not prepared to be diverted from our overall objective to see that peace be brought about in Northern Ireland."

He added that "we must all redouble our efforts" to achieve the goals set out in the Good Friday Agreement."

'No retaliation' plea

The BBC's Mark Devenport: "More bodies could be found in the rubble"
Politicians on both sides of sectarian divide in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Fein, have condemned the attack.

Ken Maginnis MP, of the Ulster Unionist Party, urged "no retaliation" by loyalist paramilitaries for the bombing.

Mr Maginnis said the people of Northern Ireland "want to see a peaceful way forward with both traditions accommodating each other".

"There should be no retaliation except by the lawful authority, and that is the two governments, particularly the Irish Government," he told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost.

[ image: Scenes of carnage captured on video after the blast]
Scenes of carnage captured on video after the blast
Loyalist paramilitary groups who have declared a ceasefire are meeting in private to discuss what has been described as "the way ahead."

One source said they were not allow anyone to steer their agenda for them.

The Ulster Democratic Party, which speaks for the biggest loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA, has already called for calm.

"The Ulster Democratic Party deplores the mindless bombing in Omagh and the senseless loss of life but urges loyalists to remain calm and not be drawn into any retaliatory action which would play into the hands of these republicans intent on wrecking this peace process," it said.

Martin McGuinness, the chief political negotiator for Sinn Fein, said politicians involved should not allow the bombing to derail the peace process.

"It is time for us to keep our nerve, it is a time for us to give sensible political leadership, it is a time for us to band together and to show these people that they aren't going to succeed in destroying the peace process," he said.

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

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