Car bomb kills policeman in Northern Ireland

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 02, 2011 2:52 PM
Car bomb kills policeman in Northern Ireland

By Ian Graham

BELFAST (Reuters) - A policeman was killed when a bomb exploded under his car in the Northern Irish town of Omagh on Saturday, the first killing in the British-controlled province for two years.

The 25-year-old constable died outside his home, a police spokesman said.

The killing comes after an upsurge of shootings and bombings targeting police by nationalist splinter groups who want to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

It was the first fatal attack since the militant republican Continuity IRA (Irish Republican Army) group shot dead a policeman in the county of Armagh in March, 2009.

Two days earlier another militant republican group, the Real IRA, ended over a decade of peace by shooting dead two soldiers outside their base near the town of Antrim.

"This was a heinous and pointless act of terror. Those who carried it out want to drag us back to the misery and pain of the past," Ireland's new Prime Minister Enda Kenny said.

"They are acting in defiance of the Irish people. They must know that they can never succeed in defeating the democratic will of the people."

The policeman's home of Omagh was the scene of the worst single attack in Northern Ireland's three decades of violence when 29 people died in a Real IRA car bombing in 1998.

A peace deal struck that year mostly ended the conflict that killed 3,600 people and was fought between predominantly Catholic nationalists and mainly Protestant unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Security officials have also thwarted a number of attempted bombs since then, but the peace process is not seen as facing a fundamental threat.

REPREHENSIBLE ATTACK

Most of the attempted car bombings have been aimed at newly recruited Catholic police officers who -- under a targeted recruitment drive -- make up 30 percent of the Police Service Of Northern Ireland (PSNI) which replaced the traditionally protestant Royal Ulser Constabulary (RUC) 10 years ago.

Two policemen have lost legs in booby trap explosions over the past two years and an officer's girlfriend was hurt when her car was targeted outside his east Belfast home.

The policeman killed on Saturday was a Catholic, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

The political party Sinn Fein, which supports the Republican goal of a united Ireland but has renounced violence, quickly condemned the attack.

"Sinn Fein is determined that this reprehensible act will not set back the progress of the peace and political process," said Gerry Adams, the president of the party which was once the political wing of the provisional IRA.

(Writing by Padraic Halpin, edited by Richard Meares)