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22 January 1998 Edition

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Undercover operation was against republicans

By Mick Naughton.

IT HAS emerged that the British soldier who shot a member of the RUC in Belfast last week was involved in an undercover operation against republcans.

The woman soldier was part of a highly covert operation by the British army's secretive 14th Intelligence Unit against local republicans in north Belfast when the RUC inwittingly stumbled on her in the early hours of Wednesday 14 January.

Following a 90 mph car-chase she crashed her blue Rover and then shot an RUC member in the chest, critically injuring him.

An Phoblacht can reveal that the soldier, who had black hair and was wearing civilian clothes and glasses had been spotted before the shooting parked at various locations in Ardoyne and in nearby loyalist areas.

She was seen outside Glenard taxis beside the Shamrock social club and she later parked in nearby Etna Drive, Holmdene Gardens and Ladbrook Drive before returning to Ardoyne Avenue where she took up a position outside the taxi depot.

She was noticed three times at this location before driving off towards the loyalist areas of Ballysillan, Mount Vernon, and the Upper Crumlin Road. Other streets she visited included that where human rights lawyer Pat Finucane was shot dead by the UDA, acting on information supplied by British intelligence agent Brian Nelson. She cruised the North Circular Road, Alliance Avenue and the Antrim and Cavehill Roads.

Unusually, at this time no RUC armoured vehicles were in Ardoyne which they usually patrol on a 24 hour basis. Six British army jeeps were positioned around Ardoyne, two in Alliance Avenue, two in Rosapenna Street and another two outside the Shamrock club.

But it was on the nearby Crumlin Road that the covert operation went dramatically wrong.

As the undercover soldier drove citywards down the Crumlin Road three unmarked RUC vehicles moved in close behind her. She sped off reaching a speed of 90mph before crashing at Carlisle Circus. One of the RUC vehicles drove off while the others pulled alongside, blocking her in.

One RUC man approached the passenger side of the British army car and was shot in the chest. As his driver got out, he too was shot at, narrowly escaping injury.

At this juncture more RUC units arrived and fired into the air. With around 12 armed RUC members surrounding her, she threw her gun down and surrendered. Over 20 different RUC vehicles had by then arrived and she was taken away. Some of those arriving were in civilian clothing and identified themselves to the uniformed RUC. These are believed to have been members of the RUC undercover units, E4A, a shadowy detachment trained by the SAS.

As we go to press it has made known that the undercover female soldier has been returned to active service after her commanding officer in the 14th Intelligence Unit visited the hospital where the RUC member remains with a bullet still lodged in his chest.

Challenging the RUC version of events, Sinn Fein councillor Alex Maskey asked why, given their hi-tec radio equipment, were the undercover soldier's superiors unable to contact the RUC units involved in the high speed chase that led to the shooting.

Calling on nationalists to be vigilant, Councillor Maskey recalled that in the past British Military Intelligence officers ran agents such as Brian Nelson without the knowledge of the RUC or British army on the ground.
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An Phoblacht
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