By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) - An Irishman was charged on Wednesday over a bombing that killed four soldiers on horseback in the heart of London in 1982, one of the most high-profile attacks by IRA guerrillas in their campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
John Downey, 61, from County Donegal in Ireland, is accused of murdering four members of the Royal Household Cavalry who were killed when a car bomb exploded in Hyde Park as they paraded towards Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth's residence.
A further 23 soldiers from the Household Cavalry, the monarch's official bodyguard, which carries out ceremonial duties on state occasions, were wounded by shrapnel.
The soldiers, dressed in their ceremonial uniforms with gleaming plumed helmets, had been due to carry out the Changing of the Guard, which hundreds of tourists gather to see outside the palace every day.
"It is alleged that Downey is responsible for the improvised explosive device contained in a car...which resulted in the deaths of four members of the Royal Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals," said Sue Hemming, Head of Counter-Terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service.
As well as the four soldiers, seven horses were killed or had to be destroyed.
Later on the same day, July 20, a second bomb exploded under a bandstand in London's Regent's Park during a performance by the Royal Green Jackets military band, killing seven members.
Downey, who was arrested when he arrived at London's Gatwick Airport on Sunday, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday afternoon.
He was charged with four counts of murder and one under the explosives act but his lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said he would not be entering a plea yet. He was remanded in custody until Friday when bail will be considered at London's Old Bailey court.
No further details on the arrest were given.
The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the double bombing, one of its most devastating attacks on the British mainland during the IRA's guerrilla campaign to drive British forces out of the province of Northern Ireland.
A 1998 peace deal largely ended more than three decades of violence, after which the IRA disbanded, although dissident groups continue to carry out sporadic gun and bomb attacks in Northern Ireland.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)