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2 December 1999 Edition

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Murders sanctioned by Downing Street

By Pádraig MacDabhaid

The British government tried to ban a new book about the 1989 killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane which says that the British government sanctioned the actions of loyalist death squads.

Nicholas Davies, former Daily Mirror foreign editor and author of the book Ten-Thirty-Three, says the British government took out a High Court injunction and confiscated his notes and computer in February 1998.

``It took me ten months to get permission to continue with the book. I agreed to remove 10% of the book because I wanted it to be finished,'' says Davies, who adds that the British government also attempted to force him to reveal the names of his three high-ranking sources within British military intelligence.

The book, backed up with these sources, claims to have the inside facts about collusion between the British army and loyalist death squads and alleges that the actions of loyalist death squads were sanctioned by the British government.

Ten-Thirty-Three was Brian Nelson's code name. A former British soldier, Nelson worked for British military intelligence and as an Intelligence Officer in the UDA.

Nelson was involved in the 1973 UDA kidnapping of disabled Catholic man Gerald Higgins in North Belfast. Higgins was beaten, had his hair set on fire and was electrocuted. Nelson refused Higgins, who died shortly after his ordeal, his medication for a heart condition. Nelson received seven years in jail.

After his release, Nelson moved to Germany. In 1987, his British army handler, Colonel J, and an MI5 agent met Nelson and asked him to rejoin the UDA. It was around this time that the Force Research Unit (FRU), a section of British military intelligence, was formed.

Davies' book goes into great depth about the activities of the FRU in the Six Counties. The FRU was a unit made up of handpicked soldiers who were tasked with gathering intelligence on republicans and loyalists. Davies explains that instead of using the intelligence which Nelson was gathering as the UDA's Director of Intelligence to prevent attacks, the FRU supplied the UDA, through agents like Nelson, with information on republicans. The book also details British military involvement in rearming the loyalist death squads through the FRU.

One of the most startling claims made in the book is that the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as chairperson of the Joint Intelligence Committee, was kept informed of the activities of the FRU. ``It was extraordinary that Margaret Thatcher got involved to the extent of asking for Military Intelligence Source Reports,'' says Davies. ``That was like asking for the pocketbook of a policeman on the beat.''

Davies also said that the reason the truth has never fully came out is because the murder of republicans was sanctioned from 10 Downing Street. ``It's blatantly obvious that the permission to go ahead with the policy came from the very top politically.''
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