Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 7 News List

IRA victims to sue Muammar Qadaffi over terror funding

BANKROLLING MAYHEM The landmark US court case targets Libya for supplying explosives that killed or maimed victims of IRA attacks in the UK

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

Victims of IRA atrocities are to sue the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadaffi and his government in what their lawyers say is the largest ever civil action involving terrorism in the UK.

Survivors of the attacks and relatives of those killed, both from the UK and abroad, are seeking millions of dollars in compensation and an apology from Libya through courts in the US.

They claim that for more than three decades Libya supplied war materials that left their relatives dead or themselves scarred, physically and psychologically, for life.

Michelle Williamson, 40, whose parents Gillian and George were killed by the 1993 bomb in a fish shop in Belfast's Shankill Road, said: "Libya can't wash its hands of responsibility. It's like the pub owner who knowingly supplies drink to a customer in the knowledge that he or she is going to drive home drunk. If that driver kills someone, then the person who plied him or her with drink bears some responsibility."

American Mark McDonald, 55, an oceanographer from Colorado, was peppered with shrapnel by an IRA bomb outside Harrods in west London in 1983. He spent 10 weeks in the hospital and still has fragments lodged in his body.

"I see this action as part of making the world safer because it might make other states thinking of sponsoring terrorism think again," he said.

The civil action, to be launched next month, is similar to that being pursued by relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the US against rich Saudis accused of financing al-Qaeda.

Lawyers for the IRA victims say papers will be filed in New York or Washington for a "spearhead group" of around 20 plaintiffs.

Victims' groups hope hundreds more people from Northern Ireland, Britain, the US and beyond will join the class action, which targets Libya and named individuals. Lawyers say up to 6,000 people were killed or injured with Libyan supplied guns and explosives during the Troubles.

Among the individuals accused are Qadaffi himself and Nasser Ali Ashour, who in the mid-1980s was third in command of Libyan intelligence and allegedly liaised directly with republican leaders including the South Armagh smuggler and former IRA chief of staff, Thomas "Slab" Murphy.

Qadaffi sent five huge arms shipments -- enough to supply at least two infantry battalions -- to the IRA in the 1980s.

Stung by former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's logistical support for US air strikes against Libya, Qadaffi sent the IRA enough guns and explosives to wage war against Britain well into the 21st century.

Jason McCue, who is heading the case for the London-based legal firm H20, said: "Libya sponsored the IRA.

The IRA utilized their help to foster their terrorist campaign. Innocent people who got caught up in that campaign suffered dreadful losses."

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