The Irish Republican Army blew up the military wing of a Belfast hospital Saturday, killing two British soldiers and injuring a 5-year-old girl and four other people.
The blast devastated the hospital where British soldiers and police wounded in the warfare with the IRA are treated.
The bomb erupted in the basement of the Musgrave Park Hospital directly beneath an operating theater. The walls of the operating theater collapsed.
A children's ward adjoining the military wing was also badly damaged in the blast. Broken toys littered the ward.
Fire crews rushed from all over Belfast to the scene of devastation, but rescuers working in torrential rain were forced back at one stage by fears of ruptured gas mains.
The IRA claimed responsibility for the blast in a call to a Belfast radio station. "We planted the bomb in a bunker in the officers' mess. We breached high security," the caller said.
Police confirmed that all the victims were either military or connected with the military, the prime target for the IRA in its 22-year battle to oust Britain from Northern Ireland. The 5-year-old girl was being treated for burns at the hospital.
The hospital is kept under tight security for fear of such guerrilla attacks with a perimeter fence surrounding the military wing.
So far this year, 73 people have been killed in Northern Ireland's political and sectarian conflict. Almost half the victims were shot dead by Protestant gangs.