The Aldwych bus bombing occurred on 18 February 1996 in Aldwych, central London, England. Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer Edward O'Brien was carrying a bomb on a bus when it detonated prematurely, killing him and injuring eight other people.

Aldwych bus bombing
Part of the Troubles
A Leyland Titan double-decker bus identical to the one bombed.
LocationAldwych, London,
United Kingdom
Date18 February 1996
22:38 (UTC)
Attack type
WeaponImprovised explosive device
Deaths1 (perpetrator)
PerpetratorProvisional Irish Republican Army



The bus bombing occurred nine days after the Docklands bombing in east London, which marked the end of the IRA's ceasefire and the resumption of its armed campaign in England.[1][2] On 16 February, an IRA bomb planted in a telephone box on Charing Cross Road, near Leicester Square tube station, was destroyed by a police remote-controlled robot after a telephone warning.[3]



At 10:38 pm on 18 February 1996, an improvised explosive device being carried by IRA member Edward O'Brien detonated prematurely on a London Central Leyland Titan double-decker bus operating on route 171 in Aldwych, in the West End of London, England.[4][5] The bus was travelling from Catford to Holborn with ten people on board. Police reported that O'Brien was sitting in the middle of lower floor of the bus when the 2 kg (4 lb) Semtex bomb detonated in his lap.[6][7]

The bomb killed O'Brien instantly and injured people both inside and outside the bus, including London Central bus driver Robert Newitt, who was permanently deafened. The victims were brought to St Thomas's Hospital and University College Hospital.[7] Three of them were in two cars in front of the bus at the time. The blast could be heard five miles away. Police said they received no warning about the bomb. The attack forced the closure of Charing Cross railway station.[4]



It was initially reported by some media that three people were killed, but it then became clear that only the perpetrator was killed.[8]

A subsequent police search of the London address of O'Brien discovered 15 kg (30 lb) of Semtex, 20 timers, four detonators and ammunition for a 9 mm Walther revolver, along with an incendiary device. The Walther pistol was discovered on him after his death.[9] The police said they were also almost certain that O'Brien was the person who planted the telephone box bomb three days before the bus bombing.[10]

Another Irishman, Brendan Woolhead, who was in the area at the time of the explosion and suffered a fractured skull, was briefly accused of involvement. His name was cleared and he subsequently won around £200,000 in damages for libel. Woolhead died in October 1996 due to drug detoxification treatment for addiction to heroin.[11]

Later events


In February 2021, in Dáil Éireann, the Tánaiste criticised Sinn Féin for organising a commemoration for O'Brien. The commemoration was organised by Wexford Sinn Féin councillor Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin, and was cancelled on 19 February 2021, "at the request of the family, due to significant online abuse targeting the family".[12][13]

See also



  1. ^ Peadar Whelan. "Ed O'Brien remembered". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 13 June 2007.
  2. ^ IRA Man: Talking with the Rebels by Douglass McFerran (ISBN 978-0275955915), page 8
  3. ^ Lyall, Sarah (16 February 1996). "I.R.A. Bomb Destroyed in Central London". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b "Bomb blast destroys London bus". BBC News. 18 February 1996. Retrieved 13 June 2007.
  5. ^ English, Richard (2003). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. Pan Books. p. 291. ISBN 0-330-49388-4.
  6. ^ "Armed guard on IRA bus bomb suspect". The Independent. 20 February 1996. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  7. ^ a b Williams, Mark (24 February 1996). "Bomber on video?". Coach & Bus Week. No. 206. Peterborough: Emap. pp. 4–5. Retrieved 10 April 2024.
  8. ^ Archive, Abdul Kareem, Head of (17 February 2016). "February 18, 1996: IRA bomb on London bus kills three".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Lost Lives, ISBN 1-84018-504-X
  10. ^ "Dead IRA man 'had hit-list' of bomb targets". 17 April 1996. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Doctor linked to drug detox death 'danger to the public' -".
  12. ^ McGreevy, Ronan; O'Halloran, Marie. "Online commemoration for IRA volunteer who died in 'bus bomb' is cancelled". The Irish Times. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  13. ^ "Sinn Féin councillor organises commemoration for IRA bomber". independent. Retrieved 19 February 2021.

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