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Real IRA truce won't halt hunt for killers Dublin, London press to arrest Omagh bombers


LONDON -- British and Irish officials yesterday welcomed the "complete" cease-fire announced by the Irish Republican Army splinter group responsible for killing 29 people in the Omagh car bombing, but they vowed to hunt down and arrest those involved in last month's carnage.

In a statement to the Irish television network RTE, the Real IRA, which broke away from the IRA a year ago, said its "volunteers" have decided upon a "complete cessation of all military activity."

Police sources in Northern Ireland said IRA leaders had pressured the Real IRA into the decision by threatening its members with death in a secret meeting a week ago.

The cease-fire leaves only the small Continuity IRA committed to violence in Northern Ireland.

There is a long history of groups committed to violence in Ireland splitting into dissident factions when any of them decides to pursue a peace strategy.

In response to the Aug. 15 Omagh bombing, Britain and Ireland enacted emergency legislation last week to go after the militants. Most Real IRA members are believed to live in the Irish Republic, and Dublin had been expected to move swiftly to arrest them after the law was passed.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern called the Real IRA statement "a positive development." But he said his government is still determined to track down members of the organization.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed that statement and said that, although Britain plans to start releasing paramilitary prisoners this week, there would be no early release of the Omagh bombers if they are convicted.

The Real IRA broke with the IRA last fall because it objected to the IRA cease-fire and pursuit of a peace agreement. The splinter group is believed to have about 30 leaders and 50 or so foot soldiers.

Pub Date: 9/09/98

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