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BBC Northern Ireland's Tara Mills
The devices could have led to massive loss of life say police
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The BBC's Denis Murray
"Little sign of an end to the feud between loyalist paramilitary groups"
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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 19:13 GMT 20:13 UK
Bomb attack on police station
At least one mortar was fired at the police station
At least one mortar was fired at the police station
Dissident republicans are believed to have been behind a bomb attack on a police station in Armagh city.

A mortar bomb exploded inside the Newry Road police station complex in the carpark at 0840 BST on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Royal Ulster Constabulary said it was a miracle nobody had been killed by the blast.

However, a number of civilian staff and a police officer were treated for shock after the attack.

A pregnant woman walking close by narrowly missed being hit by a piece of flying metal, which bounced off a wall.

Mortar bomb was fired from van parked in adjacent building site
Mortar bomb was fired from van parked in adjacent building site
The area was also busy with scores of children on their way to school.

At least one mortar is believed to have been fired from the back of a white van parked on the adjacent building site of a new hotel. Army technical officers are searching for any further devices.

Shortly after the Armagh blast the RUC confirmed that an explosion inside a British Army training base in Londonderry on Tuesday was also caused by a bomb.

The 80lb device at Magilligan only partially exploded when a soldier opened the door of a hut. He was treated for shock and a second bomb was found nearby.

Homes near the Armagh police station were evacuated and a security cordon was set up around the area taking in the Newry Road, Monaghan Road and Barrack Hill.

'Murderous intent'

Armagh Chief Inspector Derek Williamson said that at this stage the police were investigating the possibility that dissident republicans had carried out the attack.

Chief Inspector Derek Williamson:
Chief Inspector Derek Williamson: "Indiscriminate attack"
"This attack was launched totally without warning and in that respect was absolutely indiscriminate," he said.

"It was launched at a time of the morning that showed utter contempt for the lives of everyone in the area.

"It was an attack of murderous intent and was all the more despicable because of the fact that the Omagh inquest is ongoing at this moment in time."

The inquest into the Omagh bombing is hearing evidence about the dissident republican Real IRA blast which killed 29 people in the County Tyrone town in August 1998.

Condemnation

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor said that the attack showed that the Real IRA had not learned from the Omagh tragedy.

He added that although he felt it was important that the IRA continued the process of disarmament, the Real IRA posed the real threat to people in the province.

"We must send the message to the secretary of state and the chief constable that security decisions must be based on the real threat from the Real IRA, not on political considerations."

RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has recently warned about the threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

There have been a number of recent attacks on army bases and explosives seizures linked to dissident republicans.

The explosion came after the discovery on Saturday of a firebomb in a soft furnishing shop in English Street.

Before leaving Hillsborough Castle, County Down, on Tuesday for a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said every effort to catch those involved in the Armagh explosion would be made.

"If dissidents are responsible they will be tracked down by the police and security forces," he said.

"We are not going to tolerate this sort of action, from any quarter, to disrupt and destabilise the peace process which is so strong and important to the people of Northern Ireland."

The Democratic Unionist Party's Paul Berry said that more police officers should be brought in to hunt for the bombers.

Social Democratic and Labour Party councillor Jim Lennon said that all the bombers had succeeded in doing was raising tensions in the Armagh area.

Alliance Party leader Sean Neeson condemned the explosion as "a dastardly attack by the enemies of the people who so strongly endorsed the Good Friday Agreement".

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See also:

13 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Bombs placed in army base
11 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissidents blamed for attacks
12 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Major NI bomb attack thwarted
06 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Bombing blamed on dissidents
19 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissident republicans: Threat to peace
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