A bomb apparently hidden under an unmarked military van exploded without warning near the finish line of a "fun run" foot race Wednesday, killing five British soldiers and wounding 10 people, one seriously, police said.
The blast occurred 12 miles southwest of Belfast in Lisburn, site of the British army's headquarters in the province, and killed more British soldiers than any attack in Northern Ireland in more than five years.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but police said they suspected the outlawed Irish Republican Army, which is trying to oust the British from Northern Ireland and unite the province with the Irish Republic in the south.
Police said the bomb blew up the van at about 9 p.m., just as about 400 people were dispersing at the end of a non-competitive "fun run" road race.
Security sources said the attackers appeared to have followed the van, waited for the soldiers to disembark and then planted the device. They then waited for the soldiers to return before detonating it.
"Five military personnel are dead and one injured after an unmarked military van exploded at Margaret Place, Lisburn, just as a 'fun run' was ending," a police spokesman in Belfast said.
A total of 10 people were wounded, including the soldier, the spokesman said. One of the injured was seriously hurt, the spokesman said.
Earlier Wednesday, the IRA said it shot a senior member of an outlawed Protestant paramilitary group in Belfast.
The IRA said it killed Robert Seymour, 35, east Belfast commander of the shadowy Ulster Volunteer Force and No. 3 in the hierarchy, in retaliation for the killing of three people in a Catholic bar last month.
Fifth Leader Killed
Seymour, known in Belfast as "Bobby Blood," was released from jail a year ago after serving a sentence for arms offenses. He is the fifth senior UVF commander to be killed in recent years.
The last major terrorist attack in Northern Ireland took place Nov. 8, 1987, in the town of Enniskillen when an IRA bomb exploded at a war remembrance gathering, killing 11 people.
The worst previous military loss was in December, 1982, when an IRA offshoot, the Irish National Liberation Army, killed 17 people, including 11 soldiers and six civilians, in a bombing at a disco in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland.