Up to 11 people were injured late Friday when a bomb in a vehicle exploded outside a police station in the Northern Ireland town of Moira, about 20 miles southwest of the capital Belfast.
The explosion came hours after the political wing of the outlawed Irish Republican Army guerrilla group was evicted from talks to find a solution to the Northern Ireland conflict after the IRA was blamed for two murders in Belfast last week.The British and Irish governments, sponsors of the multiparty peace talks, said Sinn Fein, the political party allied to the IRA, could return to the talks on March 9 only if the IRA did not engage in fresh violence.
No group claimed responsibility for the bomb in Moira, which did widespread damage, but suspicion fell on republican extremists who have a long history of detonating such bombs. Moira is in the heart of a staunchly pro-British area.
Security analysts said one suspect was the Continuity IRA, a guerrilla faction opposed to the talks which has set off several bombs in rural towns in a bid to destabilize the peace process.
Eight people were taken by ambulance to Craigavon Hospital in County Armagh with what a hospital spokeswoman said were minor injuries. Reports said that up to 11 people were injured, at least six of them members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the province's police force.
The blast roused fears in the province that if it turned out to be the work of the IRA itself it could mark the collapse of a ceasefire the group called last July and signal a fresh wave of hostilities by the powerful guerrilla force.
Such a development would look certain to torpedo British and Irish hopes of bringing Sinn Fein back to the negotiating table by March 9.
Jeffrey Donaldson, a negotiator of the Ulster Unionist Party, which wants to retain the province's British link, said the bomb bore the hallmarks of the IRA.