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17 February 2000 Edition

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Dawn raids in West Belfast

BY LAURA FRIEL

A pensioner was taken ill and rushed to hospital after the RUC, accompanied by the British Army, staged a series of dawn raids on nationalist homes in West Belfast. A convoy of RUC vehicles, carrying dozens of heavily armed RUC officers, converged on the St. James area of West Belfast just after dawn on Wednesday, 16 February. Heavy digging equipment was brought to the scene by the British Army. The home of two elderly pensioners was the first on the Crown forces hit list.

71 year old Edward Cosgrove and his wife Alice (69) were woken shortly before 6.30am by the RUC hammering on their front door. The raiding party stayed in the elderly couple's home for over two hours. After the raid Edward Cosgrove who suffers with a serious heart condition was rushed to hospital where he was admitted for treatment.

A number of other homes in St James Street were also raided in what was described by the RUC as a ``planned'' operation. Heavy digging equipment was used together with a tow truck and crane. A number of people were arrested by the RUC. The Crown forces withdrew from the area at around 1pm.

In a statement issued later, the RUC claimed two rifles and a quantity of ammunition had been found. Other raids by the RUC were reported in the Lenadoon area of West Belfast. Rumours of raiding in the North Belfast's Ligonel area are believed to have been unfounded.

The raids come at a particularly sensitive time for nationalist communities across the North, only days after the British Secretary of State's decision to collapse the Assembly, and fuelling fears that the British are returning to the old agenda of repression.
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