IRA hijacks and sets fire to commuter train

 

THE IRA responded immediately to the decision to allow yesterday's Orange parade in Garvaghy by hijacking and setting fire to a commuter train six miles away.

The Northern Ireland Railways train was burned out after at least

10 men hijacked it as it drew into Lurgan, Co Armagh. No one was injured.

It is believed a part of the IRA unit boarded either as the train left Belfast or at its first stop in Lisburn, Co Antrim. As it approached Lurgan someone pulled the emergency cord and the train stopped beside the nationalist Kilwilkie housing estate on the outskirts of Lurgan.

The RUC said nine armed and masked men, carrying a crate of petrol bombs, boarded and ordered passengers and crew off. They then lit and threw the petrol bombs into the five carriages and engine unit.

Local people said the train was almost immediately engulfed in fire which the fire brigade could not contain.

When the fire was eventually brought under control some youths from the estate painted: "No justice, no peace train" on the side of the burned-out carriages.

The slogan is a reference to the Peace Train group set up in the late 1980s after repeated IRA attacks and hoaxes which frequently closed the Dublin-Belfast rail line.

The IRA unit involved showed considerable coolness following the attack. The men remained at the scene because no security forces were available. The RUC and British army were concentrated at Portadown dealing with the disturbances there.

Several hours after the hijacking, eight men in combat jackets and wearing black masks were still standing at the Lake Street crossing, about 50 yards in front of the burnt-out train. They remained there, directing traffic until the early evening.

Earlier yesterday security forces sealed off Lurgan town centre to allow another Orange parade to take place. This caused tension but there were no confrontations as the march did not pass through the surrounding nationalist estates.

Youths stood at street corners in the Kilwilkie estate during the afternoon, but there wore no serious clashes, as no security forces arrived at the scene.

Feelings in the estate have been running high in recent weeks after security forces searched most of the houses after the IRA's recent murder of two RUC constables.

Rail services were cancelled yesterday but will resume today when the wreckage is removed.

This is the first train the IRA has destroyed in almost a decade.