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24 July 1997 Edition

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British army and RUC slammed in Derry

Sinn Féin Shantallow Councillor Tony Hasson has criticised the activity of the RUC and British Army, whom he accused of harassing nationalist children in the area. The incident happened on Monday 21 July and was, he said ``a typical military response to the IRA's restoration of the 1994 cessation''.

Hasson described how crown forces rampaged through the estate, chasing and threatening to arrest children at whom they were hurling sectarian abuse. Their rampage lasted over two hours they also abused local people travelling to Carnhill bingo hall.

``These activities show the bigoted nature of the crown forces and they should to be withdrawn from nationalist areas now'' said Hasson.

Residents in the Fernabbey and Sandbank areas in Derry have also complained to Sinn Fein about the crown forces who ``cynically used young children as human shields while on patrol in the area''.

Concerned local residents say British soldiers patrolling in the area frequently send children through gates and fences, using them as cover.

The latest incident occurred on Thursday 17 July when residents witnessed the children accompanying the patrol which had just been dropped into nearby fields. It emerged later the British forces asked the children to go with them as they moved across the fields.

One child confirmed the soldiers had let the children play with their guns, and had shown them lead and plastic bullets and reported that one soldier told the children that if the IRA appeared ``we will use you as a shield.''

Sinn Fein Six-County Chairperson Gearóid O hEara slated the behaviour of the British Army: ``In one case the occupants of a helicopter which dropped off a large number of troops asked three young boys of 10 and 11 to accompany them through the fields.''

O hEara accused the British forces of enticing the children to meet them later so that they could once more be used to ensure safe passage.
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