Man arrested in connection with murder of 21 people in 1974 Birmingham pub bombings
A damaged and shattered bus shelter in Birmingham, after two pubs were bombed in 1974 (Image: PA)
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A man has been arrested in connection with the murder of 21 people in two pub bombings in Birmingham in 1974.
Officers from West Midlands Police's counter terrorism unit, working with police in Northern Ireland, arrested a 65-year-old man at his home in Belfast today.
In a statement the force said that: "The man was arrested under the Terrorism Act and a search of his home is being carried out.
"He will be interviewed under caution at a police station in Northern Ireland."
Firemen at work following the bomb attacks in Birmingham city centre
It comes just a month after Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would consider holding a public inquiry into the bombings.
Ms Patel also wanted to visit Birmingham to meet justice campaigners, including Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine died in the bombings.
Responding to news of the arrest Ms Hambleton called it "the most monumental event" in the criminal investigation into the bombings since the quashing of the convictions of the Birmingham Six in 1991.
When she was telephoned by a senior West Midlands Police officer with news of the arrest on Wednesday, she told of how she broke down in tears.
"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.
"It's tangible progress."
The victims of the Birmingham pub bombings
On November 21 1974 bombs were set off in two public houses in Birmingham.
Six Irishmen were arrested within hours of the blasts and in 1975 sentenced to life imprisonment.
The men, who became known as the Birmingham Six, maintained their innocence and, after 16 years in prison, their convictions were deemed unsafe and unsatisfactory and were quashed. They were released.
Each of the men later received substantial compensation from the state.
The bombings were one of the deadliest acts of the Troubles. Altogether, 21 people were killed and 182 injured.
Many of those wounded were left permanently disabled, including one young man who lost both legs, and a young woman who was blinded by shrapnel.
One of the victims, Maxine Hambleton, 18, had only entered the targeted pub to hand out tickets to friends for her housewarming party.
She was killed seconds after entering the pub and had been standing directly beside the bomb when it exploded.
Her friend, 17-year-old Jane Davis, was one of two 17-year-olds killed in the bombings.
Residents of Birmingham have referred to the Birmingham pub bombings as the "darkest day" in their city's history.