Man arrested over 1974 UK pub bombings that killed 21

Man arrested over 1974 UK pub bombings that killed 21

Representative image: iStock Photo

 A 65-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday in connection with one of Britain's worst terror attacks, the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings which killed 21 and left 182 others injured.

Six men were wrongly jailed for the bombings which tore through the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs, which were blamed on the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

But the conviction of the so-called "Birmingham Six" in 1975 was ruled unsafe by the Court of Appeal in 1991 and they were freed. No one has since been convicted.

West Midlands Police said counter-terrorism officers and colleagues from the Police Service of Northern Ireland detained the man at his home in Belfast.

"The man was arrested under the Terrorism Act and a search of his home is being carried out," the force said in a statement.

"He will be interviewed under caution at a police station in Northern Ireland."

The twin attacks in the heart of Britain's second city on November 21, 1974 came during rising violence against British rule in Northern Ireland.

The IRA has never claimed responsibility.

Inquests began last year to re-examine the deaths in Birmingham after claims police failed to heed two warnings of an impending attack -- one 11 days before, the second on the day.

The original inquests -- judicial fact-finding investigations that do not apportion blame -- were halted by the police probe that led to the conviction of the "Birmingham Six".

A jury at the resumed inquest concluded the victims were unlawfully killed and the IRA was responsible, but that there were no police failings.

Families of the victims have since been pushing for a full public inquiry into what happened.

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine died in the bombings, described Wednesday's arrest as a "monumental moment" in the criminal investigation.

She said she was "inconsolable" when police informed her of the development.

"It's welcome news. It's overwhelming news. It's tangible progress," she said but added that whatever happened, a full public inquiry was still needed.

Paul Rowlands, whose father John was killed in the Mulberry Bush bombing, also called it a "positive step".

"It is, however, just a step and it does not detract from the fact that we need a public inquiry," he added.

West Midlands Police chief constable Dave Thompson in 2016 said the failure to catch those responsible and the wrongful conviction of the Birmingham Six was "the most serious failing in this force's history".

At that time, he was pessimistic about bringing any of the real attackers to justice.

"Since 2012 and directly as a result of the campaign by families of those who died we have carefully reassessed the opportunities to bring the people responsible to justice," he said.

"Despite an intense scrutiny we have not been able to see, at this time, a prospect of doing this."

An estimated 3,500 people, most of them in Northern Ireland, were killed during three decades of violence on both sides that became known as "The Troubles".

Bloodshed was largely ended by the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, although concern remains about the continued existence of paramilitary groups and rising sectarianism.

Northern Ireland's majority Protestant unionists favour continued British rule. Largely Catholic republicans want reunification with the rest of Ireland.

In 1970, the IRA began a campaign of bombings and shootings, mainly targeted at British troops but also against civilians.

The violence was reciprocated by loyalist paramilitaries, driving a wedge between the communities.

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