The leader of the Irish Republican Army's legal political wing said the IRA killed an "exceptional and regrettable" number of civilians last year.

But Gerry Adams, president of the Sinn Fein party, told 600 delegates to the annual party convention that his rebuke did not mean he was condemning the outlawed IRA and its armed struggle to end British rule in Northern Ireland.In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, a police officer was killed Saturday and two others injured in a bombing attack near the Irish Republic border.

Sinn Fein supports the mainly Roman Catholic IRA's fight to unite the province with the republic. But even some IRA supporters have criticized the group for blunders that killed at least 20 civilians in the past 14 months.