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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 04:26 GMT
Birmingham was target of IRA attacks
The Birmingham Six - freed after 16 years
The Birmingham Six - freed after 16 years
The explosion in Birmingham is an attack on a city which was the target of one of the worst atrocities ever carried out by the IRA in England.

The explosions at two city centre pubs in 1974 left 21 people dead and scores more injured.

Scene of one of the attacks
The attacks in 1974 claimed 21 lives
The Mulberry Bush pub at the foot of the city's Rotunda tower and the nearby Tavern in the Town, were both destroyed within minutes of each other on 21 November, 1974.

A few minutes before the explosions a warning had been telephoned to the local newspaper, the Birmingham Post and Mail, but it was far too late.

Explosion within minutes

The IRA warning simply stated: "There is a bomb planted in the Rotunda and there is a bomb in New Street."

The Rotunda is a 20-storey office and retail complex and New Street is one of the city's principal thoroughfares, not far from the scene of the latest attack.

The first Birmingham bomb, at the Mulberry Bush pub in the basement of the Rotunda, exploded six minutes after the telephone warning.

There was not enough time for police to clear the area.

Earlier that year nine soldiers were killed when a bomb exploded on a coach on the M62 near Bradford, while two bombs in Guildford killed four soldiers and injured scores of other people.

'The Birmingham Six'

The attacks in 1974 prompted the government to introduce emergency terrorist legislation to help deal with the threat from the IRA.

Six men - who became widely known as the Birmingham Six - were later convicted of the bombings in that city, but were freed on appeal 16 years later.

After initially denying involvement, the IRA had said it carried out the Birmingham attack, but the real bombers have never been prosecuted.

The Birmingham bombings were the culmination of a IRA campaign in the area. There had been almost 50 explosions in the West Midlands over the preceding 15 months.

Police suspect the explosion in Birmingham was carried out by a dissident Irish republican group, opposed to the IRA ceasefire.

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