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19 June 1997 Edition

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IRA claims Lurgan attack

THE FIRST MEMBERS OF THE RUC to be killed by Oglaigh na hEireann since the IRA resumed military operations on 9 February last year had been under surveillance for a number of weeks, according to an IRA statement. The two were killed in a well planned operation in the small market town of Lurgan in County Armagh on Monday 16 June.

The RUC members had just left their heavily fortified barracks to go on patrol around Church Walk at about 11.45am when two Volunteers approached them from behind and opened fire hitting both in the head; the two RUC men, John Graham and David Johnston, died almost immediately.

The attack happened just yards from the main RUC barracks which has surveillance equipment trained on the area. Despite this and a massive follow up operation the Volunteers made their escape.

In a statement the IRA's North Armagh Brigade claimed responsibility for the operation.

The full text of the IRA statement said, ``Volunteers of the North Armagh Brigade Oglaigh na hEireann carried out an operation on Monday 16 June in which two RUC members were shot dead. Two handguns were used in the operation which was conducted within yards of the main gate of Lurgan RUC barracks. This patrol had been under surveillance for a number of weeks prior to last Monday morning's attack.''

The two dead RUC members were the 300th and 301st members of the force to die in this present phase of struggle.

Meanwhile newly elected Sinn Fein councillor from Lurgan John O'Dowd has said that since the shooting of the RUC men Kilwilkie estate has been sealed off as the crown forces carry out house searches.

O'Dowd said that the RUC in particular have been very aggressive and threatening ``to kill somebody before we leave''. During one raid the RUC held a pregnant woman in her home with dogs and when her sisters arrived and pushed through their cordon the RUC threatened, over a loud hailer, to open fire.

The Sinn Fein councillor also said that during rioting in the area on Monday evening dozens of plastics bullets were fired.

O'Dowd reported that ``the RIR have now been brought in here so it seems to me that things can only get worse. Already they are abusing people. Sinn Féin is appealing to the young people to stay calm especially as the crown forces are looking for an excuse to inflict serious injury on someone''.
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