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Judge to rule on Omagh bombing case
Families seek $22m from men allegedly behind attack that killed 29 people in N Ireland.
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2009 12:08 GMT
Twenty-nine people were killed and more than 200 injured in the 1998 Omagh bombings [GALLO/GETTY]

A judge in Northern Ireland is to decide whether a group of men alleged to be behind a Real IRA bomb attack that killed 29 people should pay millions of dollars to families of the victims.

Relatives of some of the people who died in the 1998 Omagh bombing, the worst single attack in the province's history, are claiming $22m in compensation from the five men they hold responsible for the atrocity.

They are also suing the Real IRA, an offshoot of the Irish Republican Army, that masterminded the bombing.

It is the first time anywhere in the world that members of a fighter organisation have been sued and, if successful, the judgement could pave the way for victims of violence to sue other such groups.

No convictions

The Real IRA exploded the car bomb in the market town on August 15, 1998, but despite extensive police investigations, no one was convicted of the crime.

The families' civil case, which is being heard at Belfast High Court, has so far cost an estimated $3.17m.

Bill Clinton, the former US president, who visited the town while in power, has been among the backers of the legal action, which has taken eight years to reach a verdict.

The families allege that Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy, Seamus Daly and Seamus McKenna all played a role in the attack, which also left more than 200 people injured, a charge they all deny.

The court has heard from spouses, parents, brothers and sisters of the victims, as well as police officers who described the scenes of carnage they encountered at the scene of the bombing.

Daniel Brennan, the lead lawyer for the case, has said that if successful the judgement could open the floodgates for similar actions against fighters responsible for the bulk of the 3,700 deaths in Northern Ireland's four-decade conflict.

"Regardless of the result this has been worthwhile, it has empowered the families like never before," he said.

Source:
Agencies
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