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Omagh bombing: what happened and who was responsible?

omagh bomb
omagh bomb

Relatives at the funeral of Omagh bombing victim James Barker

Paul Vicente/AFP/Getty Images
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omagh bomb

The 1998 car blast was single biggest atrocity in history of the Troubles

In Depth
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 - 1:54pm

Prince Charles is on a two-day trip to Omagh to meet survivors and families of victims of the 1998 car bomb that claimed 29 lives.

The Prince of Wales today opened the new Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex and met medics who treated people caught in the blast, ITV News reports reports.

As the Northern Ireland town prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing, The Week examines the events around the attack. 

What happened in Omagh?

A car bomb exploded in a crowded shopping area in the centre of the town on 15 August 1998, killing 29 people and injuring 220 more. Nine children and two unborn babies were among the dead.

It was the greatest single loss of life in any terror atrocity during the Troubles and almost derailed the Good Friday peace agreement, signed earlier that year.

A warning had been called in 40 minutes before the attack, but authorities got the location wrong, the BBC reports.

“Police had begun to evacuate the area but were actually shepherding people towards the site of the explosion,” the broadcaster says. “Those who thought they had reached safety were instead caught up in the most devastating single atrocity of Northern Ireland’s Troubles.”

Who was responsible?

The bombing was carried out by members of the Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA), a group of renegade IRA members opposed to the peace process.

In the days following the attack, the group apologised, insisting that civilians had not been the target.

No one has been criminally convicted of the bombing.

However, the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, representing the victims’ relatives, successfully sued four republicans, who were found liable for the bombing at a civil trial.

There have been “long-standing allegations that intelligence and investigative failures by authorities on both sides of the border allowed the bombers to both carry out the crime and get away with it”, Sky News reports.

In August last year, relatives of the victims announced that they would sue George Hamilton, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, for failings that they believe allowed the culprits to walk free. They are suing the current police chief because he has legal responsibility for the actions of both his service and its predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, explains the Belfast Telegraph.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son, Aiden, in the bombing, said: “We need to know why they have failed so spectacularly on the worst atrocity of the Troubles, even though the atrocity was in peacetime.

“What we want is for the people behind this crime to be put in jail.”

Northern Ireland The Troubles

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