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5 November 1998 Edition

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Crown forces saturate Cappagh

The rural community of Cappagh, Co Tyrone was placed under siege for over 96 hours in a joint RUC/British Army operation that started on Thursday 29 October. Finally, at 7pm on Monday local people confronted the crown forces, who were forced back into the fields and waiting helicopters.

The occupation began with the arrest of Dungannon man, James Hughes, who was taken to Gough Barracks in Armagh. He was subsequently released without charge. Hughes, recently released from Portloaise under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, was questioned about his conviction, in direct contravention of the terms of the prisoner release scheme.

Following the arrest a large contingent of crown force personnel from the Royal Regiment of Wales moved into the area setting up a series of checkpoints. The RUC also blocked private lanes leading to a number of homes in the area.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Francie Molloy said, ``this sort of harassment by the British Army and the RUC is breaking both the word and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. The British Government, in accordance with the Agreement, should be setting out a plan for demilitarisation not subjecting whole communities to periods of siege and military occupation.''

British Army divers and sniffer dogs were used to search the water reservoir, the main water supply for Dungannon, which is adjacent to the main road where Hughes was arrested and a British Army helicopter was in the air from 3pm on Sunday until the early hours of Monday morning, sitting just above the rooftops of local homes. A number of residents who took photographs of the incident had film removed from their cameras.

At one point on Monday evening an angry resident shone a lamp up at a helicopter and was told that he was endangering the whole population.

Molloy was also stopped, by RUC Sergeant Glover, on Sunday as he travelled on a private lane.

Molloy said he contacted the office of NIO Minister Adam Ingram on Friday and registered a complaint. Despite promising to get back to the Assembly member the NIO failed to do so.

Molloy said the operation had intensified on Monday evening with RUC divers searching a local fishery. Diggers and lifting equipment were brought on to a local farm.

In a separate incident a local farmer had his stocks of hay taken from a barn and dumped into the pouring rain.

``Throughout the whole time the area was saturated with the British Army and RUC there was a total lack of cooperation, all the paraphernalia of war was on display. The British Army repeatedly failed to give identification details and were aggressive and abusive to both local residents and myself,'' Francie Molloy said.

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