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2 IRA Supporters, 1 Bystander Hurt as Bomb Explodes in Belfast

June 22, 1997|From Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — A bomb exploded under a moving car Saturday, injuring two anti-British militants and a bystander in the latest attack in an upsurge of violence in the province.

The car's two occupants, both identified as supporters of a splinter group of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, and a pedestrian were treated for cuts at a hospital and released.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but members of Northern Ireland's pro-British "loyalist" paramilitary groups were believed to be behind the attack.

The blast comes amid increasing violence. On Monday, the IRA shot dead two police officers in the market town of Lurgan, about 20 miles southwest of Belfast. Three days later, a member of the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party found a small bomb attached to his car in Ballycastle, 45 miles north of Belfast.

At a Denver summit of the world's leading industrial nations, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Clinton jointly condemned the assault.

Blair called it "another appalling terrorist act, and it simply underlines the need for peace and to move this process forward." Clinton said he too was appalled.

Saturday's bomb destroyed the car and shattered windows in houses on Claremont Street in religiously mixed south Belfast. Soldiers and police cordoned off the area as explosives and forensics experts pored over the remains.

The commitment of loyalists to maintain their 32-month-old cease-fire has been eroding, and some members have been using car bombs to target figures associated with the IRA--which ended its own 1994 cease-fire 17 months ago--and now apparently the splinter Irish National Liberation Army, which never formally called a truce. Both groups are fighting to end British rule of Northern Ireland and draw support from the province's Catholic minority.

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