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3 April 1997 Edition

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Loyalist car bomb in North Belfast

By Mick Naughton

For Marie Burns and her three young children the latest loyalist ``measured response'' to IRA activity was anything but measured. Four lives would have been snuffed out by the 100lb car bomb left outside her Lepper Street home in the New Lodge in North Belfast last Sunday 30 March.

The Sinn Fein office opposite, the stated loyalist target, obviously empty at 6.30am, would have suffered structural damage but the Burns family would have been killed had the bomb exploded.

Loyalists hi-jacked a silver Nissan Bluebird taxi in Agnes Street off the Shankill Road then drove it loaded with a 100lb bomb to Lepper Street where it was left in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning.

The loyalists did not issue any warnings, convincing local people that the attack was aimed at the civilian population. Local people also were cynical about claims by crown forces that the bomb was three minutes from detonating when the British army defused it as the RUC didn't begin a proper evacuation of the area until 10 or fifteen minutes after they discovered the bomb.

Marie Burns said of her ordeal:

``The RUC first told us to move to the back of the house, then after 10 or fifteen minutes they told us to get out. My neighbours all ran down the street and we ended up in the church hall. My home is full of broken glass, the sitting room, our beds all wrecked. The kids are terrified.''

Sinn Feins North Belfast candidate Gerry Kelly warned nationalists to heighten their vigilance and again called into question the bogus loyalist ceasefire. He said the British government had ``double standards'' in dealing with loyalists.

``Cameras, on the flats opposite, look directly onto the front door of our offices where the bomb was left yet they claim not to have seen anything. What we are witnessing are clear acts of collusion. The driver was able to park the car containing a beer keg full of explosives and make his escape with 14 British soldiers 12 storeys up looking on.''

Sunday's attack followed a fire bomb attack on the Dungannon Sinn Fein office in Irish Street on Thursday 27 March. A window was smashed and inflammable liquid poured in. A claim from a group with UVF links was made later that day, but predictably loyalist spokesperson David Ervine insisted that the Combined Loyalist Military Command's ceasefire was still intact.

Meanwhile the threat that loyalists were about to embark on a no warning bombing campaign against nationalists was heightened with news that the RUC uncovered a bomb factory in the staunchly loyalist Carrickfergus. Although discovered at the weekend the RUC only revealed details on Tuesday 1 April.
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