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UK police arrest man over 1974 Birmingham pub bombings

FILE PHOTO: Aquitted members of the Birmingham Six, sent to prison in 1975 for the IRA's bombing of two pubs, gather with their MP after they walk from court as free men. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British counter-terrorism police said on Wednesday they had arrested a man over the 1974 pub bombings in the city of Birmingham which killed 21 people, the deadliest attack on the British mainland in 30 years of Northern Irish violence.

The bombings took place in the crowded Mulberry Bush pub and The Tavern in Birmingham, central England, on Nov. 21, 1974. Although the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was believed to have planted the explosives, it never claimed responsibility.

West Midlands Police said counter-terrorism officers had arrested a 65-year-old man at his home in Belfast on Wednesday in connection with the attacks.

“The man was arrested under the Terrorism Act and a search of his home is being carried out,” they said in a statement. “He will be interviewed under caution at a police station in Northern Ireland.”

The bombings, in which over 180 people were also wounded, caused the biggest loss of life on the British mainland during the 30 years of conflict between mostly Catholic nationalists, who favored Northern Ireland’s unification with the Republic of Ireland, and Protestants wanting to stay in the United Kingdom.

The violence, known as “The Troubles” in which some 3,600 people died, was largely brought to an end with the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

In one of Britain’s most notorious miscarriages of justice, six Irish men were later wrongly convicted of the bombings and spent 16 years in jail until they were exonerated and released in 1991. One of those wrongly jailed said the police had advance knowledge about the attack but allowed it to happen.

However, an inquest last year concluded the bombs were planted by members of the Provisional IRA, and that a warning they gave was inadequate. It also concluded there was no failing by the police.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison