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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 18:15 GMT
Omagh bomb report imminent
The Omagh bomb killed 29 people
The police deny they were warned about Omagh
The Police Ombudsman's office has said the controversial report on the Omagh bombing will be released on Wednesday, despite police calls for more time.

Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has said he is considering calling in an outside team to carry out a police investigation.

But the nationalist SDLP has said the next move is up to the Policing Board, not the chief constable.

The Ombudsman's draft report report found the RUC's special branch was warned about an attack planned for 15 August 1998 - but the information was not passed to police officers on the ground.

The proper authority for dealing with these matters is the Police Board

Alban Maginness, SDLP

Twenty-nine people died in Omagh on that date in a Real IRA car bomb.

Leaked details of the draft report suggested the Omagh bombers may have been thwarted if the information had been passed on and security checkpoints set up.

The SDLP's Alban Maginness said any new investigation into the atrocity should be conducted by the Policing Board.

"The proper authority for dealing with these matters is the Police Board," he said.

He said calling in an outside team seemed "unnecessary duplication".

He added: "We have got the Ombudsman's report, we have got the potential of an inquiry by the Police Board which was set up to ensure that the Police Service of Northern Ireland was accountable to the people of Northern Ireland.

"Why should we include an outside police service?"

'External inquiry'

Sir Ronnie said he would bring an outside team in if that is what it took "to reassure victims that no stone will be left unturned in this investigation".

He said the inquiry remained "current and live".
Nuala O'Loan: Police Ombudsman
Nuala O'Loan: Police Ombudsman

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginnis said there should be an external inquiry if the circumstances of the leaked report were not resolved.

But he said Sir Ronnie Flanagan had a duty to his officers to ensure that the matter is investigated properly, whatever the Police Board decide.

A call received by police 11 days before the Omagh bombing gave no indication of the forthcoming attack, according to Sir Ronnie.

He said no officer within special branch was being protected by the decision not to inform local officers in Omagh of the information.

'Subversive trace'

"There is no question of any special branch interest, asset or source being protected," he said.

It was the special branch assessment that this did not merit further action

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

Sir Ronnie gave details of a telephone call taken on 4 August which named individuals who, it was claimed, would be moving weapons close to Omagh, to use in an attack on police on 15 August.

Sir Ronnie said: "The individuals were known to certainly one of the special branch officers. These were people not having any subversive trace.

"It was the special branch assessment that this did not merit further action."

Sir Ronnie said the information from an agent and from an anonymous caller on 4 August was such that he had "no doubt they did not present an opportunity to prevent the dreadful atrocity that took place in Omagh".

BBC NI's Rosy Billingham
"The SDLP says the Policing Board should make the decision"

The Troubles
Understanding Northern Ireland
See also:

07 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Chief constable rejects Omagh claims
06 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
RUC 'knew about' Omagh attack plan
06 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Police critical of Omagh draft report
06 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Political fallout after Omagh revelations
05 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Government 'selective on terrorism'
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