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IRA Admits Its Bomb Killed Civilians but Declares Soldiers Were Targeted

November 10, 1987|Associated Press

ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland — The Irish Republican Army said Monday that it planted the bomb that killed 11 civilians and wounded 63 others here at war memorial services but claimed that it intended to kill soldiers and that the bomb went off prematurely.

The attack stirred a wave of revulsion on both sides of the border with the Irish Republic, from Protestants and Roman Catholics alike.

The slaying of a Catholic on Monday and other shootings in Belfast heightened fears of a violent Protestant response.

Pope John Paul II sent a telegram to the local church in Enniskillen, expressing his "heartfelt condolences to the families of the innocent persons killed by this cruel act."

In a statement to Irish news media, the outlawed IRA sought to excuse the high civilian toll by saying the 40-pound bomb should have blown up as soldiers marched by during the Remembrance Day ceremony for fallen British soldiers. It said British forces set off the bomb with high-frequency scanning devices that have jammed and neutralized other IRA explosives in the past.

The statement, coded in a way that vouched for its authenticity, described the deaths as "catastrophic consequences" and added: "We deeply regret what occurred."

Tom King, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, called the IRA statement "utterly disgraceful."

An army spokesman in Northern Ireland called the IRA claim "despicable" and added:

"There was no piece of equipment of any kind in use by the army in Enniskillen which was capable of triggering this device. We regard the IRA's statement with the greatest possible contempt."

The predominantly Catholic IRA is fighting to drive the British from mostly Protestant Northern Ireland and unite its six counties with the 26-county Irish Republic.

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