UK police arrest man over IRA bombings of pubs in 1974

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1974 AP

FILE - In this file photo dated Nov. 22, 1974, an interior view showing the damage caused by a bomb at the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham, England, one of two public houses bombed late on November 21. It is announced Wednesday Nov. 18, 2020, that police have arrested a 65-year old man in Northern Ireland in connection with the deaths of 21 people in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham, England.(AP Photo/Peter Kemp, FILE)

LONDON – Police arrested a man Wednesday in Northern Ireland in connection with the 1974 bombings of two pubs that killed 21 people and injured more than 200 in Birmingham, England.

West Midlands Police said officers from the West Midlands counterterrorism unit, working with colleagues from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, arrested a 65-year-old man at his home in Belfast. The man was arrested under the U.K.'s Terrorism Act, and his home was being searched, it added.

The arrest came days before the 46th anniversary of the two Nov. 21, 1974 blasts that ripped apart the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs in the city of Birmingham.

The blasts were one of the worst attacks committed by the Irish Republican Army during its decades-long armed campaign to get Britain out of Northern Ireland that officially ended with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said a month ago that she would consider holding a public inquiry into the bombings.

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine died in the bombings, said the arrest was “the most monumental event” in the criminal investigation into the bombings since the 1975 murder convictions of six men were thrown out in 1991 after serious doubts were raised over the police evidence against the defendants, widely referred to as the Birmingham Six.

Hambleton said she broke down in tears when a senior West Midlands Police officer telephoned her with news of the arrest.

“I couldn’t speak. I was just inconsolable and was just looking at the picture of Maxine,” she said. “It’s welcome news. It’s overwhelming news."