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23 January 1997 Edition

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New IRA weapon

A new IRA weapon came into use in the past week which saw two attacks on British forces.

Mountpottinger RUC barracks became the latest British military installation to be attacked by the IRA's Belfast Brigade when two explosive devices were hurled at the barracks' main blockhouse.

Shortly after 7am on 20 January Volunteers took up position close to the barracks gate awaiting the emergence of an armoured personnel carrier from beside the reinforced blockhouse containing a number of armed guards. As the heavy steel gates were opened the Volunteers lobbed the two explosive devices. Both detonated as the Volunteers withdrew. There were no reports of British casualties.

The IRA's Belfast attack followed the appearance of a new weapon in the IRA's armoury. In claiming responsibility for the earlier attack the IRA stated that Volunteers operating just outside the County Down town of Downpatrick fired two horizontal mortars at an armoured RUC patrol vehicle late on Saturday evening 18 January.

The double mortar unit fired two missles simultaneously at the RUC vehicle, skimming over it in front of a shocked driver. He narrowly missed death as the two exploded on contact with a high grass bank opposite the firing point. This attack was launched on the main Downpatrick to Newcastle Road.

The appearance of this latest armour-piercing weapon with its 2lbs of high explosive in the warhead will have caused British forces to re-assess the vulnerability of their heavy vehicles.

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An Phoblacht
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