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BBC NI's Maggie Swarbrick reports
"The railway line has been closed"
 real 28k

Friday, 30 June, 2000, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Dissidents linked to railway blast
Railway line
Device exploded on railway line
Dissident republicans are being blamed for a bomb attack on the Belfast to Dublin railway line in south Armagh.

The chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has said the attack was probably the work of dissident republicans, possibly the Real IRA.

A blast was reported by residents in the Low Road area near the village of Meigh, about three miles from Newry, at 0225 BST on Friday.

There were no reports of any injuries or damage to property.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan said the police have known for some time that it has been the intention of dissident republicans to carry out such attacks.

One of the dissident groups, the Real IRA, which was behind the Omagh bomb in 1998, has been linked to a number of recent attacks on security bases.

The group opposes the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland peace process.

Sir Ronnie was speaking during the launch of the RUC's annual report in Belfast on Friday.

Ssir Ronnie Flanagan
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: Dissidents "pose threat"
He said such groups were under pressure from the security forces but they did pose a "real and growing threat".

Sir Ronnie said: "At this stage, its too soon to be definitive, but we would assess that this was the work of dissident republicans."

"We have known for some time it has been the intention of dissident republicans in that area to carry out attacks."

The chief constable insisted the dissidents were being squeezed by the RUC and the Republic of Ireland police force, the Garda Siochana. "But they do pose a real threat," he said.

"We cannot afford and will not allow ourselves to be complacent in dealing with them."

Sir Ronnie said there was also a "real possibility" that the Real IRA was planning bomb attacks in London, but added that he had no specific intelligence to suggest such an attack was imminent.

Attack condemned

Meanwhile, local SDLP assembly member, John Fee, said the bomb attack was another attempt at trying to raise tensions at a very sensitive time.

He said: "We are two days out from the first of the major contentious marches.

"Last night's explosion was a rather crude intervention by some people who have nothing to contribute to our political future."

The attack has also been condemned by the Ulster Unionist party's assembly member for Newry and Armagh.

Danny Kennedy said: "It puts human life at risk and inconveniences everyone.

"Newry and south Armagh has been benefiting from a peaceful atmosphere in recent months.

"Such incidents only serve to remind people of how the town has suffered in the past."

Security forces are still investigating the explosion which occurred after several people were told to leave their homes by a man claiming to be from the IRA.

About 20 people, the occupants of seven houses in the rural area, had to get out of their homes.

The explosion followed coded telephone warnings from a woman to four Belfast newsrooms.

She claimed that a device had been left on a railway line between Newry and Dundalk and would explode at 0230 BST.

Hoax package

However, the caller did not say which organisation she represented.

A man who lives near the railway line told the BBC that just after midnight a man rang his doorbell.

The caller said he was from the IRA and said the family had just two hours to get out because of a bomb.

Security forces will begin searching the area later on Friday.

Train services are still running, but passengers are being bussed between Newry and Dundalk.

Meanwhile, a number of families had to be moved from their homes in Banbridge, County Down early on Friday following a bomb warning.

Army technical experts examined a suspicious package found on the doorstep of a house at Brookfield Avenue in the town. It was declared a hoax.

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissidents 'pose real threat'
06 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Explosion at army camp
01 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissidents claim army attack
16 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissident threat to peace
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