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12/17 OT Irish Car Bomb

The Harrods bombing usually refers to the car bomb that exploded at Harrods department store in London on Saturday 17 December 1983. Members of the Provisional IRA planted the time bomb and sent a warning 37 minutes before it exploded, but the area was not evacuated. The blast killed six people (three police officers and three civilians), injured ninety, and caused much damage. The IRA's Army Council claimed it had not authorised the attack and expressed regret for the civilian casualties. The IRA had been bombing commercial targets in England since the early 1970s, as part of its "economic war". The goal was to damage the economy and cause disruption, which would put pressure on the British Government to withdraw from Northern Ireland.[1]

The store was the target of a much smaller IRA bomb almost ten years later, in January 1993, which injured four people.

The bombing badly damaged the IRA's support, due to the civilian deaths and injuries.[4] In a statement issued the day after, the IRA Army Council admitted that IRA members had planted the bomb, but claimed that it had not authorised the attack:

The Harrods operation was not authorised by the Irish Republican Army. We have taken immediate steps to ensure that there will be no repetition of this type of operation again. The volunteers involved gave a 40 minutes specific warning, which should have been adequate. But due to the inefficiency or failure of the Metropolitan Police, who boasted of foreknowledge of IRA activity, this warning did not result in an evacuation. We regret the civilian casualties, even though our expression of sympathy will be dismissed. Finally, we remind the British Government that as long as they maintain control of any part of Ireland then the Irish Republican Army will continue to operate in Britain.[3]

Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, commented: "The nature of a terrorist organisation is that those in it are not under disciplined control".[3] In his book The Provisional IRA in England, author Gary McGladdery says the bombing illustrated one of the problems with the IRA's cell system, where units "could become virtually autonomous from the rest of the organisation and operate at their own discretion".[11] The IRA had adopted the system in the late 1970s.

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