IRA Says It Set Bomb That Hurt 31 at British Base in Germany

Associated Press

The Irish Republican Army on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a car bomb explosion at the British armed forces headquarters here that injured at least 31 people.

In a statement read to the Associated Press by telephone from the Irish Republican Press Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the organization said, "Our unit's brief was to inflict a devastating blow but was ordered to be careful to avoid civilian casualties."

Most of the victims were West German officers and their wives, British military officials said.

The statement was signed "P. O'Neil, Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, Dublin," a pseudonym always used by the IRA to claim responsibility for guerrilla attacks outside the British province of Northern Ireland. The IRA is fighting to drive out the British and reunite the province with the Irish Republic.

The bombing occurred Monday night outside a mess hall at the British Army of the Rhine and Royal Air Force headquarters, where a farewell party was being held. Col. Michel Baugniet, chief press spokesman for the British forces in West Germany, said that officers and their wives were attending the party.

"Because of the presence of a large number of civilians, including many women, in the immediate area, a warning was given," the statement read to the AP said.

A West German news agency said it received a warning in English shortly before the explosion but could not fully understand it because of language difficulties. The caller quickly hung up.

"Judging by the fact that it was a car bomb and the size of the bomb, and considering the object of the attack, one would suspect the Red Army Faction or the IRA," Alexander Prechtel, a spokesman for the chief federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe, said early Tuesday.

The Red Army Faction is a terrorist group that has been active in West Germany.

Police said the Monday night blast blew a hole in the ground 10 feet wide, heavily damaged the mess hall, shattered windows in buildings within several hundred yards and destroyed about 20 cars parked nearby. Police said the bomb weighed about 220 pounds.

Prechtel said the bomb was placed in or under a red Toyota in the mess hall parking lot and that the car's owner, a waitress at the party, was among the injured.

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