A FORMER soldier yesterday pled gulity to bombing an Army barracks 22 years ago. Peter McMullen, 49, admitted planting four bombs which devastated the Claro Barracks in Ripon, North Yorkshire, in March 1974.

Although more than 100 soldiers escaped injury in the blast, the manageress of the Naafi shop was slightly injured.

Armed police surrounded York Crown Court as grey-haired McMullen, from County Antrim, Ulster, arrived early yesterday.

McMullen, who leaned heavily on a stick as he entered court, spoke only to confirm his name and to plead guilty to four charges under the Explosives Act.

Judge Arthur Myerson adjourned the case until October 30, awaiting documents from the United States from where McMullen was extradited this March.

McMullen, a former Parachute Regiment cook, had lived in the US for more than 20 years and had fought extradition since 1978.

The Claro Barracks were the headquarters of the Royal Engineers, which had many soldiers serving in Northern Ireland at the time.

Police said no warnings were received for the four bombs, and no-one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Detective Superintendent Ian Lynch, of North Yorkshire police, said: ``Although this incident took place 22 years ago the evidence has stood the test of time.

``A very thorough, detailed, and professional investigation was carried out at the time.

``The conviction of McMullen is evidence, if any is needed, that we will pursue with vigour anyone involved in terrorist activities.''

Mr Lynch praised the Justice Department and Federal Marshall's department in New York for their ``outstanding assistance'' with the case.

McMullen's admission of his involvement in the bombing is the latest instalment in a tale of violence and betrayal dating back to the early 1970s.

McMullen was born in Belfast and joined the Parachute Regiment in the early 1960s.

He was a cook in the regiment's 1st Battalion at the Palace barracks near Belfast when it was blasted by two bombs in January 1972. He deserted a few days later, joining the IRA. Arrested in Ireland shortly afterwards, he jumped bail.

Claiming to be disillusioned with random terrorism, he resigned from the IRA in 1974.

McMullen fled to the US and gave himself up to the authorities in San Francisco in 1978. He was as much a fugitive from the IRA - which had accused him of attempting to extort money from bars in New York using its name - as he was from British justice.

He detailed his involvement with the IRA in a series of interviews for the Boston Globe newspaper in 1979, which are thought to have angered his former IRA colleagues. He claimed to have been heavily involved in arms smuggling operations from the US, even maintaining that the QE2 had been used to transport weapons to Ireland.

In a 1986 BBC interview about extraditions, McMullen described his view of terrorism. He said: ``How do you define a terrorist? A person who uses terror against another person.

``How do you define a guerilla? A person who fights for something he believes in. That's how I define it.''

McMullen was at the centre of an extradition row between the US and Britain in 1991. A federal judge in New York refused to grant a warrant for his extradition, ruling it was unconstitutional since a 1986 treaty between the two countries was aimed specifically at him and other Irish republicans.

Previously, in a long string of court proceedings, he had defeated attempts to extradite him under a 1977 treaty between the US and Britain by claiming political exemption.

McMullen spent several years in a holding prison in New York and attracted considerable sympathy in the US.