Omagh Bomb Blast: The 'Real' Thing?

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There are a lot of questions in Northern Ireland right now, and very little in the way of answers. Nobody knows much about the five men arrested in an early morning swoop in the town of Omagh Monday, except that they were wanted in connection with the most bloody terrorist attack in the territory's recent history. The perpetrators of Saturday's car-bomb attack that killed 28 people and wounded 220 are unknown, although police suspect a Republican splinter group that calls itself the Real IRA. But why would they plant a bomb in a mostly Catholic town? And was the most horrific part of the atrocity -- that a misleading telephone warning led people to be standing right at the spot where the explosion took place -- a mistake, or a murderous ploy? Nobody knows.

The Real IRA, at least, is well known to British intelligence. It is led by Michael "Mickey" McKevitt -- who, as former Quartermaster General of the Provisional IRA, knows where all the semtex is stashed. McKevitt was one of the most prominent figures to resign from the IRA Army Council last October in protest over Sinn Fein's involvement in the peace process. Short of cash and short of arms, McKevitt's men have been keen to talk other Republican splinter groups into pooling resources. Whether or not they were responsible, Saturday's blast may end up being the kind of publicity the Real IRA couldn't buy.