Loyalists are blamed for bomb attack on bar

 

Loyalists are being blamed for a bomb attack which sent Saturday night diners and drinkers, Protestant and Catholic, fleeing from an Armagh bar in fear of their lives. No one was injured in the incident, but several people including a young girl were badly shaken by the experience.

The explosion at Steptoes Bar-restaurant, about five miles outside the city on the Moy Road, is reminiscent of a UVF attack over 20 years ago in which two local men were killed. On that night two neighbours, Mr Pat Molloy, a Catholic, and Mr Jack Wylie, a Protestant, were having a quiet drink when a hand grenade was thrown into the hallway of the premises.

Detectives hunting those responsible for this latest attack say they have not yet established a clear motive. The Catholic-owned hostelry at Kilmore is used as a "local" by the rural community.

Forensic experts carried out a detailed search of the scene yesterday morning. The remains of the device, which according to a British army bomb-disposal expert had contained 1lb to 2lb of high explosives, was taken away for further examination. It could be a number of days before forensic experts have determined the type of device.

The former mayor of Armagh Mr Jim Speers, an Ulster Unionist, who represents the area, called on loyalist terrorists to end their campaign of violence. The attack was "total madness" and such actions were totally at odds with the wishes of the community these people claimed to represent.

Twenty-five customers were in Steptoes when the explosion at the rear rocked the building. There was minor damage to the backdoor and steps. A badly shaken manager, Mr Seamus Conlon, described it as a "nightmare".

There was "chaos" throughout the premises for about five minutes as customers fled in panic. "It was unbelievable. People were running everywhere. A young girl and a lot of other people were very shocked and distressed."

The city's SDLP Mayor, Mr Pat Brannigan, said he was very shocked and alarmed about the attack. It was a miracle no one was injured.