Four police officers were killed in an explosion today when their bulletproof patrol car ran over a land mine. Authorities blamed the Irish Republican Army.
The explosion outside the town of Newry was the worst attack on security forces in Northern Ireland since February, when IRA guerrillas fired mortar shells at a Newry police station, killing nine officers.
The three policemen and one policewoman were in a car on the outskirts of the town on the Irish border today to escort a security truck bringing cash from Ireland, police spokesman Bob Millar said.
He said the explosion blew away hedges and knocked down trees. Tires, chassis fragments and debris littered nearby fields.
The bombed car was one of two police cars that had been waiting at Killeen customs post to take over the escort duty. The officers in the second car were not injured, police said.
A bus carrying handicapped children on an outing was on the road shortly before the blast, and the children "narrowly escaped injury," police said.
The British government and Protestant politicians immediately linked the blast to the outlawed IRA and the participation of Sinn Fein, its legal political wing, in municipal elections last week. Sinn Fein won 12% of the vote.
Douglas Hurd, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said, "Once again it is shown that the main interest of the IRA is in killing rather than getting votes."