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1978: Belfast bomb suspects rounded up
Police in Northern Ireland have arrested at least 20 people in connection with the La Mon restaurant bomb.

Yesterday's blast killed 12 people - including children - and injured 30 others.

The blast was the second worst since the present wave of troubles began in 1969.

An act of criminal irresponsibility
Roy Mason, Northern Ireland Secretary
Only six of the bodies have been formally identified after the petrol bomb exploded in the La Mon House entertainment complex at 2100GMT, in a usually peaceful area of County Down, 14 miles from Belfast.

None of the people detained after police and army raids has been officially named and the round-up operation continues.

A police statement described the people they picked up as "suspected of being active in IRA terrorist activities and their numbers include members believed to be prominent in the command structure of the IRA."

The IRA has not admitted involvement in the bombing, but a spokesman for its political wing Sinn Fein revealed nine of their members had been arrested, including executive member Gerry Adams.

Remnants of the bomb timer and two petrol cans have been recovered and forensic experts suggest it is a new kind of device involving a small explosion that throws out a massive flame.

The bomb had been taped to the window of the Peacock Room, where all the casualties were found.

The victims were all Protestants and included 45 members of the Irish Collie Club and the Northern Ireland Junior Motor Cycle Club.

A total of 450 people were forced to flee from elsewhere in the highly flammable plastic and wooden hotel structure.

Northern Ireland Secretary Roy Mason - who flew back to the UK hours before the explosion - said it was "an act of criminal irresponsibility" carried out by "remnants of IRA gangs".

Before leaving Mr Mason made a speech to an Alliance Party delegation about the decreasing terrorist activities of the Provisional IRA.

Many Loyalist activists and politicians blame his complacent attitude for the attack.

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La Mon restaurant after bombing
Some victims were burned beyond recognition

In Context
The next day the IRA issued a statement from Dublin admitting their part in the explosion that killed 12 civilians and that their nine minute warning was inadequate.

Analysts described the content of the bomb as home-made napalm - as used in the Vietnam War - where sugar was mixed with petrol so flames 'stuck' to whatever they burnt - including people.

Gerry Adams was charged with membership of the IRA but he was cleared in September 1978 due to insufficient evidence.

Over 20 years later some people were still being treated for the injuries they sustained at La Mon.

The La Mon firebomb Commons campaign was launched in February 2002 to encourage the British Government to launch an official inquiry into the incident.

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