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1988: Three shot dead at Milltown Cemetery

VIDEO : Actual footage of the Milltown Cemetery grenade attack

A gunman has killed three mourners and injured at least 50 people attending a funeral for IRA members shot dead in Gibraltar.

It is understood he also threw four grenades into the crowd of 10,000 people gathered around the Republican plot at Milltown Cemetery in Roman Catholic west Belfast.

The casualties have been taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in a fleet of private vehicles and 10 ambulances.

Eyewitness reports describe mourners gripped with panic, screaming and shouting while others collapsed to the floor.

The initial shot was mistaken for an IRA salute as the dead, Mairead Farrell, 31, Daniel McCann, 30, and Sean Savage, 23, were buried.

But shortly after 1300 GMT as the last of the three coffins was lowered into the joint grave, another shot was fired.

Attacks condemned

Another shot was quickly followed by two blasts 50 yards away which is said to have sent black smoke and earth into the air.

Several more shots were fired amid a burst of what is thought to be grenades.

Funeral stewards made repeated appeals for calm as the course of reconciliation in Northern Ireland faced another setback.

There are some reports the man was then pursued by hundreds of youths oblivious to the danger.

The Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King, has condemned the attacks and appealed for calm, echoing calls from other political quarters including Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

But Mr Adams accused the RUC of collusion in the attack.

The RUC had agreed to stay away from the funeral after representations from the Roman Catholic church and political leaders.

The Ulster Defence Association, the largest of the Protestant paramilitary organisations, denied any part in the attack.

It added the outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters had no part in today's events either.

In Context
The funerals were for three IRA members shot dead by British special forces in Gibraltar, where they were planning an attack on the British garrison.

A lone loyalist gunman, Michael Stone, was chased by mourners at the cemetery but was arrested by police.

The east Belfast man had been active on the fringes of loyalist para-militarism before the Milltown killings and was ultimately sentenced for a total of six murders when he eventually came to trial.

The Ulster Freedom Fighters member was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years imprisonment by the trial judge.

But he was released in 2000, despite massive outrage, after serving 12 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In November 2006 he had his release licence suspended after he was arrested for bursting into Stormont claiming to have a bomb. He was charged with attempting to murder Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and with possessing an imitation firearm.


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