BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Britain and Ireland pledged a tougher war on the IRA, whose mortar attack on a Newry police compound killed nine people and wounded 37. Militant Protestants vowed Friday to "repay this bloody debt in kind . . . an eye for an eye."
Northern Ireland Secretary Douglas Hurd visited the devastated scene in a bulletproof car Friday and said Britain is determined to "defeat the terrorists" who are trying to drive Britain out of the province.
Ireland's prime minister, Garret FitzGerald, promised in Dublin to spare no effort "to apprehend and put away those responsible for this atrocity if they cross the border in the (Irish) Republic." Newry is a border town, and the presumption is that they did so after the attack Thursday night. The IRA is outlawed on both sides of the border.
Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, said in London that she was "immensely grateful" for the Irish pledge.
'Eye for an Eye'
A leader of Northern Ireland's Protestant extremists said, "We will repay this blood debt in kind. We're talking about an eye for an eye." He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Irish Republican Army guerrillas fired nine mortar shells Thursday evening at the police station in this predominantly Roman Catholic town near the Republic border, about 35 miles south of Belfast.
Four or five shells carrying 40-pound warheads, fired from the bed of a hijacked truck 200 yards away, crashed through the roof of the wooden canteen building where about 50 police officers were having their evening meal, Deputy Police Chief Michael McAtamney said.
The explosions demolished the building, and the dead and wounded were mutilated by jagged, flying shards of glass and wood.
No Damage Caused
One round exploded near houses around the police base, causing no damage, and the others either blew up in flight or failed to detonate, police said.
Nine officers were killed--seven men and two women--the highest toll ever in a single attack on the province's predominantly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary. Twenty-five civilians and 12 police officers were taken to a hospital, and all but one were released after treatment.
A few hours later, guerrillas killed a soldier of the Ulster Defense Regiment, a mostly Protestant British army unit recruited in Northern Ireland, in a booby-trap bombing at Pomeroy, 40 miles north of Newry. Two soldiers were wounded.
The IRA claimed responsibility for both attacks. "This is a major and well-planned operation, indicating our ability to strike where and when we decide," the guerrillas said in a statement issued to news organizations Friday.
'The War Goes On'
"The war goes on. We realize that Britain's rule in Ireland is based not on consensus but on brute force, and we know that only armed struggle will break the political will of the British government to remain in Northern Ireland."
The Ulster Defense Assn., a clandestine Protestant group that claims 10,000 members, predicted a violent backlash by pro-British extremists.