seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Harrods Bombing

harrods-bombingA Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) car bomb kills six and injures ninety outside London‘s Harrods department store, a large, upmarket department store in the affluent Knightsbridge district near Buckingham Palace on December 17, 1983. The IRA Army Council claims that it has not authorised the attack and expresses regret for the civilian casualties. After the bombing, the IRA changes its tactic to focus on military targets on the mainland.

Harrods had been the target of an earlier IRA bomb on December 21, 1974 which was placed in the northeast corner of the first floor. There was a very short warning and the store was in the process of being cleared when it exploded. It was also the target of a much smaller IRA bomb almost ten years later, in January 1993, which injured four people.

From 1973 the Provisional IRA has carried out waves of bombing attacks on commercial targets in London and elsewhere in England as part of its “economic war.” The goal is to damage the economy and cause disruption, which would put pressure on the British government to withdraw from Northern Ireland. On December 10, 1983, the IRA carries out its first attack in London in some time when a bomb explodes at the Royal Artillery Barracks, injuring three British soldiers.

One week later, on the afternoon of December 17, IRA members park a car bomb near the side entrance of Harrods, on Hans Crescent. The bomb contains 25 to 30 lbs. of explosives and is set to be detonated by a timer. It is left in a 1972 blue Austin 1300 GT four-door sedan. At 12:44 PM a man using an IRA codeword phones the central London branch of the Samaritans charity. The caller says there is a car bomb outside Harrods and another bomb inside Harrods, and gives the car’s registration plate. According to police, he does not give any other description of the car.

The bomb explodes at about 1:21 PM, as four police officers in a car, an officer on foot and a police dog-handler near the suspect vehicle. Three officers and three bystanders are killed and 90 others are injured, including 14 police officers. The blast damages 24 cars and all five floors on the side of Harrods, sending a shower of glass down onto the street. The police car absorbs much of the blast and this likely prevents further casualties.

Five people die at the scene of the bombing and a sixth later dies in the hospital. The bystanders who die are Philip Geddes (24), a journalist who had heard about the alert and went to the scene, Jasmine Cochrane-Patrick (25) and Kenneth Salvesen (28), a United States citizen. The Metropolitan Police Service officers killed are Sergeant Noel Lane (28) and Constable Jane Arbuthnot (22). A third officer, Inspector Stephen Dodd (34), dies in the hospital from his injuries on December 24. Constable Jon Gordon survives, but loses both legs and part of a hand in the blast.

At the time of the explosion, a second warning call is made by the IRA. The caller says that a bomb has been left in the C&A department store at the east end of Oxford Street. Police clear the area and cordon it off but this claim is found to be false. In the aftermath of the attack, hundreds of extra police and mobile bomb squads are drafted into London. Aleck Craddock, chairman of Harrods, reports that £1 million in turnover has been lost as a result of the bombing. Despite the damage, Harrods re-opens three days later, proclaiming it will not be “defeated by acts of terrorism.” Denis Thatcher, the husband of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, visits the store and tells reporters “no damned Irishman is going to stop me going there.”

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The 2002 Bali Bombings

bali-bombings-2002The 2002 Bali bombings occur on October 12, 2002 in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali. The attack kills 202 people, including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, and people of more than 20 other nationalities. An additional 209 people are injured.

At 11:05 PM Central Indonesian Time, a suicide bomber inside the nightclub Paddy’s Pub, sometimes referred to as Paddy’s Irish Bar and owned Natalia Daly of Cork, County Cork, detonates a bomb in his backpack, causing many patrons, with or without injuries, to immediately flee into the street. Twenty seconds later, a second and much more powerful car bomb hidden inside a white Mitsubishi van is detonated by another suicide bomber outside the Sari Club, a renowned open-air thatched roof bar located opposite Paddy’s Pub.

The bombing occurs during one of the busiest tourist periods of the year in Kuta Beach, driven in part by many Australian sporting teams making their annual end-of-season holiday.

Damage to the densely populated residential and commercial district is immense, destroying neighbouring buildings and shattering windows several blocks away. The car bomb explosion leaves a one-metre-deep crater.

The local Sanglah Hospital is ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the disaster and is overwhelmed with the number of injured, particularly burn victims. There are so many people injured by the explosion that some of the injured have to be placed in hotel pools near the explosion site to ease the pain of their burns. Many of the injured are forced to be flown extreme distances to Darwin (1,100 mi) and Perth (1,600 mi) on the Australian continent for specialist burn treatment.

A comparatively small bomb detonates outside the U.S. consulate in Denpasar, which is believed to have exploded shortly before the two Kuta bombs, causes minor injuries to one person and minimal property damage. It is reportedly packed with human feces.

The final death toll is 202, mainly comprising Western tourists and holiday-makers in their 20s and 30s who are in or near Paddy’s Pub or the Sari Club, but also including many Balinese Indonesians working or living nearby, or simply passing by. Hundreds more people suffer horrific burns and other injuries. The largest group among those killed are holidayers from Australia with 88 fatalities. On October 14, the United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 1438 condemning the attack as a threat to international peace and security.

Various members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, are convicted in relation to the bombings, including three individuals who are sentenced to death. An audio-cassette purportedly carrying a recorded voice message from Osama bin Laden states that the Bali bombings are in direct retaliation for support of the United StatesWar on Terror and Australia‘s role in the liberation of East Timor. The recording does not claim responsibility for the Bali attack. However, former FBI agent Ali Soufan confirms that Al-Qaeda did in fact finance the attack.

On November 8, 2008, Imam Samudra, Ali Amrozi bin Haji Nurhasyim and Huda bin Abdul Haq are executed by firing squad on the island prison of Nusa Kambangan. On March 9, 2010, Dulmatin, nicknamed “the Genius” and believed to be responsible for setting off one of the Bali bombs with a mobile phone, is killed in a shoot-out with Indonesian police in Jakarta.


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Bloody Friday in Belfast

bloody-friday-1972At least twenty Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombs explode in Belfast on July 21, 1972, during the Troubles in what has become known as “Bloody Friday.” Most of the bombs are car bombs and most target infrastructure, especially the transport network. Nine people are killed, including two British soldiers and five civilians, while 130 are injured.

In late June and early July 1972, a British government delegation led by William Whitelaw holds secret talks with the Provisional IRA leadership. As part of the talks, the IRA agrees to a temporary ceasefire beginning on June 26. The IRA leaders seek a peace settlement that includes a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland by 1975 and the release of republican prisoners. However, the British refuse and the talks break down. The ceasefire comes to an end on July 9.

Bloody Friday is the IRA’s response to the breakdown of the talks. According to the IRA’s Chief of Staff, Seán Mac Stíofáin, the main goal of the bombing operation is to wreak financial harm. It is a “message to the British government that the IRA could and would make a commercial desert of the city unless its demands were met.” Some also see it as a reprisal for Bloody Sunday in Derry six months earlier. The attack is carried out by the IRA’s Belfast Brigade and the main organiser is Brendan Hughes, the brigade’s Officer Commanding.

The bombings occur during an 80-minute period on the afternoon of Friday, July 21. At least 24 bombs are planted. At least 20 explode and the rest fail to detonate or are defused. At the height of the bombing, the middle of Belfast “resembled a city under artillery fire; clouds of suffocating smoke enveloped buildings as one explosion followed another, almost drowning out the hysterical screams of panicked shoppers.” According to The Guardian, “for much of the afternoon, Belfast was reduced to near total chaos and panic. Thousands streamed out of the stricken city…and huge traffic jams built up. All bus services were cancelled, and on some roads hitch-hikers frantically trying to get away lined the pavements.”

Nine people are killed and 130 are injured, some of them horrifically mutilated. Of those injured, 77 are women and children. All of the deaths are caused by two of the bombs – at Oxford Street bus depot and at Cavehill Road. The Oxford Street bomb kills two British soldiers and four Ulsterbus employees. One employee is a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) reservist, one is an Ulster loyalist paramilitary, and the other two are civilians. The Cavehill Road bomb kills three civilians.

The IRA’s Belfast Brigade claims responsibility for the bombings and says that it had given warnings to the security forces before the bombs exploded. It says that the Public Protection Agency, the Samaritans and the press “were informed of bomb positions at least 30 minutes to one hour before each explosion.” Mac Stíofáin says, “It required only one man with a loud hailer to clear each target area in no time” and alleged that the warnings for the two bombs that claim lives are deliberately ignored by the British for “strategic policy reasons.”