1988 IRA attacks in the Netherlands

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1988 IRA attacks in Netherlands
Part of the Troubles
1988 IRA attacks in the Netherlands is located in Netherlands
Roermond
Roermond
Nieuw-Bergen
Nieuw-Bergen
1988 IRA attacks in the Netherlands (Netherlands)
LocationRoermond and Nieuw-Bergen, Limburg, Netherlands
Coordinates51°12′0″N 5°59′0″E / 51.20000°N 5.98333°E / 51.20000; 5.98333Coordinates: 51°12′0″N 5°59′0″E / 51.20000°N 5.98333°E / 51.20000; 5.98333
Date1 May 1988
TargetRAF personnel
Attack type
Shooting, bombing
Deaths3
Non-fatal injuries
3
PerpetratorProvisional IRA


The Provisional IRA carried out two separate attacks on the same day on 1 May 1988 against British military personnel in the Netherlands which resulted in the deaths of three RAF members and another three being injured.[1] It was the worst attack suffered by the British security forces during The Troubles from 1969 to 1998 on mainland Europe.[2]

Background[edit]

1988 was one of the worst years of the Troubles conflict in terms of violence during the 1980s. It saw an increase in IRA activity, a new campaign of sectarian killings by loyalist paramilitaries, and a heavy response by the British Army to IRA attacks. On 6 March the SAS shot dead 3 IRA members in Gibraltar. On the 16 March at the funerals of the IRA volunteers shot in Gibraltar, a loyalist UDA volunteer killed an IRA member, Kevin Brady, as well as 2 civilians and injured dozens of other people in a grenade and gun attack at Milltown cemetery in Belfast. At Brady's funeral, two plain clothed, off-duty, British Army corporals were cornered by an angry crowd who assumed they were under attack and the IRA killed both of them. In May, the UVF killed 3 Catholic civilians and injured 9 in a gun attack in a Belfast pub.[3] On 15 June, 7 people were killed, first 6 British soldiers were killed in the Lisburn van bombing and then the IRA shot dead a UVF member.[4]

On 7 July, an IRA member and 2 civilians were killed in a premature bomb explosion.[5] Later that month on the 23 July the IRA killed a family of three in a botched operation in Armagh.[6] On 20 August the IRA killed 8 British soldiers and injured a further 28 in the Ballygawley bus bombing, this was the worst attack suffered from the British army since 1982. Ten days later on the 30 August the SAS shot dead 3 more IRA Volunteers at Drumnakilly.[7] One day later 3 civilians were killed when somebody triggered an IRA booby-trap bomb by mistake.[8] Twenty-nine people were killed in the month of August alone.[9] 104 people died in 1988 compared to 61 in 1986 and 57 in 1985. It was the worst year since 1982 when 110 people were killed.[10]

Previous attacks in mainland Europe[edit]

The IRA and other Republican paramilitaries such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) had been carrying out attacks against British military personnel and British diplomats on mainland Europe since the late 1970s. Prominent attacks included:

  • 22 March 1979: Richard Sykes, then British Ambassador to the Netherlands, and his Dutch valet, Krel Straub, were killed in a gun attack in Den Haag, Netherlands.[11]
  • 28 August 1979: Four British soldiers were wounded when the IRA detonated a bomb under a bandstand in Brussels, Belgium, as British Army musicians were preparing to perform. (1979 Brussels bombing)
  • 16 February 1980: a British soldier was shot dead by the IRA outside his home, Bielefeld, West Germany.[12]
  • 24 November 1981: the left-wing Republican group INLA claimed responsibility for exploding a bomb outside the British Consulate in Hamburg, West Germany.[13]
  • 25 November 1981: the INLA claimed responsibility for exploding a bomb at a British Army base in Herford, West Germany; one British soldier was injured.[13]
  • 23 March 1987: 31 people were injured in a car bomb attack at Rheindahlen Military Complex, near Mönchengladbach in Germany.[14] (1987 Rheindahlen bombing)

The attacks[edit]

The first attack took place in the market of Roermond city, a popular social centre for British military personnel in the southeastern part of the Netherlands on the West German border. Two enlisted Royal Air Force members from the RAF Regiment based at RAF Wildenrath in Germany were sitting in a parked car near their base at around 01:00 am when IRA members fired shots from an automatic rifle into their car, killing one of the soldiers (SAC Ian Shinner, 20) and badly injuring his companion. Police on the scene said that at least 23 bullets were fired into the vehicle.

Half an hour later in Nieuw-Bergen, about 30 miles north of Roermond, a booby-trap bomb that was placed under the car of four other RAF soldiers exploded while they were parked outside a discotheque. The bombing killing two more RAF soldiers (John Miller Reid and John Baxter) and injured two others. "The bodies were in such a condition that they could not immediately be identified," police spokesman Louis Steens told The Associated Press in Nieuw Bergen.[15] The soldiers were based at RAF Laarbruch, about 3 miles away across the border in West Germany.[16]

The IRA were able to identify the British military personnel due to the number plates on the cars. In both attacks, the cars being driven by the RAF members had British military licence plates.

The IRA issued a statement from Belfast in relation to the attacks saying: "We have a simple message for [Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher. Disengage from Ireland and there will be peace. If not, there will be no haven for your military personnel and you will regularly be at airports awaiting your dead." [17] Both the British and Irish governments condemned the attacks.

Many Irish Republicans saw the attacks as revenge for the killings of the three IRA volunteers in Gibraltar two months before (see Operation Flavius). In 1990, two Australian tourists were shot dead by the IRA in Roermond.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  2. ^ Lederer, Edith M. "IRA Killings Follows Lull In Terrorist Attacks Outside Britain With AM-Netherlands-Ira, Bjt". AP NEWS.
  3. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  4. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  5. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  6. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  7. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  8. ^ Malcolm Sutton. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  9. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1988". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Deaths in each year of the Troubles, Northern Ireland, 1969-1998". www.wesleyjohnston.com.
  11. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  12. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  13. ^ a b The Bulletin. 26 November 1981.
  14. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY | 23 | 1987: 30 hurt as car bomb hits Army base". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  15. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  16. ^ "IRA KILLS 3 BRITISH SERVICEMEN". 2 May 1988 – via www.washingtonpost.com.
  17. ^ DeYoung, Karen (2 May 1988). "IRA KILLS 3 BRITISH SERVICEMEN". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 15 October 2016.