Manchester: Trump's Terror Message More Urgent Than Ever

  • Sam Mire
  • May 24, 2017 10:54AM

Manchester, England, is no stranger to the menace that terrorism inflicts on a national psyche. February 9th, 1996 marked the bloody end to a 17-month ceasefire between the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the United Kingdom, whose citizens, including women and children, had long been the targets of the radical IRA’s effort to remove Northern Ireland from England’s control.

The London Docklands bombing in the financial district of Canary Wharf on that February day left two dead and 100 injured after a truck bomb was detonated, causing approximately $190 million in property damage. More frightening was the reality that this attack reinforced: the IRA was a terrorist organization, and ceasefires, treaties, and appeasements were never going to serve as deterrents to attacks against British citizens.

Despite the Docklands bombing reverberating throughout the United Kingdom, Manchester remained shrouded in a sense of quiet safety. Located 209 miles northwest of London, the town known for its tight-knit, football-obsessed, working class population and its red-brick Manchester University seemed far from an obvious target for the IRA.

And, on Saturday, June 15th, 1996, there was reason to be focused on London. Trooping the Colour, a ceremony held on a Saturday in June, commemorates the official birthday of the reigning King or Queen. A tradition as English as they come, a royal procession flanks the Queen as she departs from and returns to Buckingham Palace after ample pomp and circumstance. This grand ceremony was to be held on this Saturday, and anti-terror troops were out in massive numbers, the Trooping the Colour an obvious opportunity for the IRA to perpetrate a massive, public attack against England.

Yet, while London would be the obvious target for any attack, it has been proven time and again that unpredictability is a critical element in the most ruinous terror plots. Manchester would not, if chosen, be an illogical target, either. An international football match between Russia and Germany was to be played at the iconic Old Trafford Stadium, home to Manchester United soccer club, on the next day.

For whatever reason, it was the residents and tourists in Manchester that would be targeted on June 15th, 1996, with devastating results. Around 9:20 a.m., two men in hooded jackets and sunglasses were caught on video departing a white Ford Cargo van parked in front of a Marks and Spencer retail store in the heart of Manchester’s shopping district. Inside the van was the largest bomb that would ever be detonated on the English mainland, 3,300 pounds of homemade, lethal explosives. Mass evacuations saved countless lives, but 200 were injured in the blast, which could be heard 15 miles away less than two hours after the men exited the vehicle.

Yesterday, terror returned to the already scarred psyche of Mancunians.