13 February 1997 Edition
British soldier shot dead
Massive Strabane landmine
A single shot from a sniper killed a British soldier in Bessbrook, South Armagh on Wednesday night. The soldier was at a permanent vehicle checkpoint close to the heavily-fortified Bessbrook British Army Base when the attack occurred. The checkpoint was set up last October in a bid to strengthen security near the base.
And the massive IRA landmine located on the main Strabane to Omagh A5 Road late on Sunday evening 9 February - exactly one year after the IRA bomb on the Isle of Dogs in London - was intended for a crown forces patrol, a supplied IRA statement confirmed this week.
West Tyrone Brigade, Oglaigh na hEireann said, ``the mine contained 1,200lbs of explosive mix in three 45 gallon drums and was close to a wall on a building site at the Melmount Road. As an ASU waited for a British mobile patrol, noted and timed over a number of weeks driving on this road, they noticed a large group of civilians moving about nearby.
``Forced to abandon the mine, the Volunteers disarmed the firing pack linking the command wire to the three drums. They then phoned a local organisation around 4.pm saying where the mine could be located''.
British army technical officers moved in with extreme caution around daylight at 8.30am on Monday morning and at 5.30pm finally gave the RUC permission to reopen the A5 road.
Around the same time Volunteers of the East Tyrone Brigade were moving into position to ambush an RUC armoured patrol on the outskirts of Pomeroy. In a statement the IRA discounted media reports that a ``coffee jar'' fragmentation grenade was thrown.
``Our Volunteers, aware of frequent RUC mobile patrols leaving the RUC barracks, set up a horizontal mortar unit. Shortly before 9pm on Monday 10 February as an RUC armoured vehicle drove past our Volunteers' position on the Cavanakeeran Road beside the Parkview Estate the mortar was launched. The blast rocked the vehicle and injured an RUC member.''
On Wednesday evening 5 February another horizontal mortar was fired in Newell Road in nearby Dungannon. Local people reported seeing an RUC patrol leaving the scene after an explosion was heard just after 11.pm. In this incident no casualties were reported.
Once again countering bogus RUC claims, the IRA's North Armagh Brigade refuted a report that they had used a ``coffee jar'' during an attack in Lurgan. They pointed out that during the previous day three separate groups of four British APCs full of troops were observed travelling to Lurgan along the M1 around 2.30pm to reinforce troops already in place around the closed Belfast to Dublin railwayline.
``Despite the presence of the large force of British troops backing up RUC mobile support units on Thursday 13 February in the nationalist Kilwilkie estate, our Volunteers were able to evade these and move a shoulder-fired rocket launcher into the area,'' the IRA stated.
``Around 10.15pm as a number of RUC vehicles drove along Levine Road, one of the main routes through the estate, the grenade was fired at the rear of the last vehicle and exploded, rocking the vehicle. No injuries were reported.''