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'Bomb attack' on base; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: MAURICE FITZMAURICE

SECURITY chiefs have ordered an investigation after terrorist suspects entered an Army base on a possible dry run bombing mission.

Two men and a woman managed to drive a stolen car into Thiepval Barracks, the Mirror can reveal.

The three drove around half a mile into the base before smashing through a fence on the other side.

They escaped on foot and the car was later destroyed in a controlled explosion.

No explosive device was found but security experts fear dissident republicans are testing the defences of the base. Yesterday morning the car passed by armed guards at the main gate where every pass is checked before the gate is opened.

That gave them access to the headquarters building, the centre of military operations here.

And it opened up a route taking in the camp's bar, the officers' mess and the married quarters of senior officers on the base.

The speeding car flattened a security fence on the opposite side of the camp and the three escaped before patrols got to the scene.

They may have had a getaway car waiting for them.

The military complex in Lisburn was the scene of a car bomb attack in 1996 when two 800lb devices shattered the base killing one person. More than 30 people were injured after the IRA drove the devices into the base using a forged pass.

The Army has kept a tight lid on the drama, but admitted that an inquiry is under way.

A spokesman put the incident down to joyriders who somehow drove into the complex security system that guards the base. He said: "There was a smell of drink and we think they were lost.

"When the patrol came to offer assistance it looks like they panicked and sped off. The car had been stolen in Antrim earlier."

But a security source told the Mirror that there were fears the incident was carried out by paramilitaries.

The source said: "This could have easily turned into a kamikaze mission. These people drove into a heavily guarded base with troops everywhere who are carrying live ammunition.

"Not only that, but the whole thing happened in broad daylight.

"There are a few officers who are being closely questioned now, and bases across the province will be reviewing their security after what happened."

CAPTION(S):

DEVASTATED: Thiepval in 1996
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 6, 2001
Words:392
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