1996 Docklands Bombing


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  • Osnabrück barracks 1996

The Docklands bombing (also known as the Canary Wharf bombing or South Quay bombing) occurred on 9 February 1996. It was conducted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and brought an end to their seventeen-month ceasefire. The bomb detonated in a financial district, killing two people and causing an estimated £100 million worth of damage.

At about 19:01 on 9 February, the IRA detonated a large bomb containing 500 kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser and sugar, in a small lorry about 80 yards (70 m) from South Quay Station on the Docklands Light Railway (in the Canary Wharf area of London), directly under the point where the tracks cross Marsh Wall. The detonating cord was made of semtex, PETN and RDX high explosives. Due to a telephoned warning, nearby buildings and the road were evacuated. However, two men working in the newsagents shop directly opposite the explosion, Inan Bashir and John Jeffries, had not been evacuated in time and were killed. 39 people required hospital treatment due to blast injuries and falling glass. It destroyed part of the South Quay Plaza. The explosion left a ten metres wide, three metres deep crater.

Approximately £100 million worth of damage was done by the blast. Three nearby buildings (the Midland Bank building, South Quay Plaza I and II) were severely damaged (the latter two requiring complete rebuilding whilst the former was beyond economic repair and was demolished). The station itself was extensively damaged, but both it and the bridge under which the bomb was exploded were reopened within weeks (on 22 April), the latter requiring only cosmetic repairs despite its proximity to the blast.

This bomb represented the end to the IRA ceasefire during the Northern Ireland peace process at the time. James McArdle was convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, but murder charges were dropped due to concerns about press coverage. McArdle was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in June 2000.

The IRA described the deaths and injuries as a result of the bomb as "regrettable", but said that they could have been avoided if police had responded promptly to "clear and specific warnings". Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Paul Condon said: "It would be unfair to describe this as a failure of security. It was a failure of humanity."

On 28 February, the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, John Major and John Bruton announced that all-party talks would be resumed in June. Major's decision of dropping the demand of a previous IRA decommissioning of weapons led to criticism from the press, which accused him of being "bombed to the table".

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