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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Who are the Real IRA?
The Omagh bombing killed 29 people
The Omagh bombing killed 29 people
The Real IRA is to be proscribed by the American State Department as a banned terrorist organisation. BBC News Online looks at the dissident republican group and its activities over the last four years.

Who is the Real IRA?

The group was born out of a split in the mainstream Provisional IRA in October 1997, when the IRA's so-called quartermaster-general resigned over Sinn Fein's direction in the peace process.

Security chiefs in Northern Ireland and Britain say they pose a clear danger.

The Real IRA quickly took over from the older Continuity IRA as the leading home for dissidents, and the security forces believe the two organisations have co-operated in a number of attacks.

The Real IRA's followers, are believed to include former IRA members, some of whom have expertise in terms of bomb-making.

Several arms finds in the past 12 months have uncovered weapons from Eastern Europe which were believed to be heading to the Real IRA in Northern Ireland.

What attacks have been linked to the Real IRA?

The Real IRA carried out the worst single atrocity of over 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland when it bombed the County Tyrone town of Omagh, killing 29 people, in August 1998.

Over the past 12 months, 28 explosions, booby traps, shootings and arms finds in Northern Ireland and five attacks in London have been attributed to the Real IRA.

It has also carried out a campaign of so-called "barrack buster attacks" on military and police bases.

Large mortars - some of which are crude and inaccurate, but all potentially deadly - have been fired at several bases in Armagh, Tyrone and Londonderry.

Attacks in London, linked to the group, have included a bomb attack on Hammersmith Bridge, explosions at BBC Television Centre and MI6 headquarters, and a series of bomb attacks on a north London postal depot.

Other paramilitary groups have declared ceasefires. Have the Real IRA?

The Real IRA declared a ceasefire after public condemnation over the Omagh attrocity in 1998, but re-emerged in February of last year.

Since then there has been a steady escalation in attacks in Northern Ireland and Britain.

In June last year, the Real IRA launched its first attack in London when it bombed Hammersmith Bridge.

The Metropolitan Police in London have warned of a planned bombing campaign by the Real IRA in Britain to coincide with the forthcoming general election.

What led to the Real IRA being sanctioned?

Former US President Bill Clinton is regarded as one of the major players in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Before Mr Clinton left office in January, he implemented initial procedures for putting the Real IRA on the state department's list of proscribed organisations.

Although George W Bush has stated his willingness to keep Ireland a permanent part of US foreign affairs, the Northern Ireland question is not believed to be at the top of his foreign affairs agenda.

He has given responsibility for Northern Ireland to his Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The proscription of the dissident republican group is the first major policy on Northern Ireland implemented by Mr Bush's administration.

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See also:

15 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
US appoints envoy to NI
16 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
NI leaders in White House talks
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