Terrorists murder Ulster policeman
A POLICEMAN was shot dead in Northern Ireland last night, 48 hours after two soldiers were murdered outside their barracks in Co Antrim. The death triggered warnings that Northern Ireland was "staring into the abyss", with fears the killings would trigger revenge attacks by Loyalist paramilitary groups.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said the officer's unit had been investigating suspicious activities in Craigavon, a predominantly Catholic town south-west of Belfast, when it came under fire.
Police carrying machine-guns were this morning guarding the scene of the shooting, which happened close to a school. Councillors and local residents gathered as police helicopters hovered above. A PSNI spokesman said police were called to Lismore Manor, Craigavon, at around 9:45pm, by a member of the public.
He said: "Two police vehicles arrived in the area. Both officers alighted from the vehicles. It appears gunshots were fired at them. One officer was struck by gunfire and subsequently died from his wounds."
While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the killing, politicians last night condemned it as an attempt to destabilise Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration.
David Simpson, the Democratic Unionist Party MLA for the Upper Bann area, where the shooting took place, branded it as a "deliberate and sustained effort by terrorist murderers to try and drag Northern Ireland back to the worst days of Ulster's past". David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party, a centre-ground Unionist movement, said the shooting was "cowardly and despicable".
It came after further details emerged of the shooting of the two unarmed British soldiers on Saturday. It was revealed that more than 60 shots were fired in 30 seconds by the terrorist gunmen.
The intensity of that attack was revealed to a sombre House of Commons as MPs paid tribute to the soldiers, who were shot as they collected takeaway pizzas yards from their base only hours before they were due to be deployed to Afghanistan. Two other soldiers and the two pizza delivery drivers were injured.
Details of the "barbaric" attack emerged as Lord West, the security minister, said the government was reviewing the resources it dedicates to counter-terrorism in Northern Ireland, which have fallen to 15 per cent of MI5's annual budget.
Describing Saturday night's attack, Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland Secretary, told MPs: "The soldiers came out of the main gate of the barracks. The cars delivering the pizzas were parked fewer than ten yards away. As they did so, two masked gunmen opened fire.
"The initial volley of shots was followed by a second. The attackers clearly were intent to kill both the soldiers and the civilians. They continued firing at the men even when injured, even when some had fallen to the ground. The firing lasted for more than 30 seconds. More than 60 shots were fired. Neither the soldiers nor the civilians had a chance against the premeditated attempt at mass murder."
The soldiers were named as Sapper Cengiz Azimkar, 21, from London, and Sapper Mark Quinsey, 23, of Birmingham. Both were members of 38 Engineer Regiment, based at the Massereene army barracks in Co Antrim. Sapper Azimkar, known as Patrick, was preparing for his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. He and Sapper Quinsey were wearing already their desert fatigues.
One of the two pizza delivery men was named locally as Anthony Watson, 19. The other was a 32-year-old Polish man.
Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, flew to Northern Ireland yesterday and visited the barracks. Mr Brown, who shook hands with the former IRA leader Martin McGuinness, now the Sinn Fein deputy first minister, vowed the attack would not derail the peace process. He said: "The political process will not and can never be shaken."
The Real IRA, a dissident Republican group opposed to the peace process, claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack.
Meanwhile, questions were being raised about the use of civilian guards to protect army bases in Northern Ireland. Since the start of 2008, dissident groups have mounted 18 gun and bomb attacks, with three carried out in early this year.
Last week, Sir Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland's chief constable, warned of an increased threat from renegade factions and asked for the army's Special Reconnaissance Regiment to be called in to monitor suspects, while MI5 raised the threat level in Northern Ireland to "severe".
Last night, the DUP linked the two attacks, with Mr Simpson claiming the political process was under attack from terrorists intent on causing mayhem. He added: "I hope the vermin responsible are brought to justice immediately. Events such as the murders at Massereene and this latest terrorist atrocity show us all the need for a swift, co- ordinated and ruthless security and government response."
The SDLP Upper Bann MLA, Dolores Kelly, condemned the shooting of the PSNI officer, saying: "We are staring into the abyss. All of us have to realise we are on the brink of something absolutely awful. All of us have to get together to pull ourselves back from the brink."
Last night, the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said the attack was a tragic attempt to set back the peace process: "There's no strategy behind it, there's no sense other than to subvert the work (of parties aiming for peace]."
Mr Woodward, who described the killers as "barbaric criminals", said the threat posed by dissident republicans was at its highest for six years.
He said: "This has been a very dark few days for Northern Ireland. But it is a temporary darkness at the end of a tunnel of considerable light."
The Reverend Ian Paisley, the former Northern Ireland first minister, said the gunmen involved in Saturday night's barracks shooting had "desecrated the shamrock by trying to pour the blood of their innocent victims upon it".
• In pictures: The Massereene shooting
How splinter groups pose 'serious threat'
THE increasing threat posed by renegade terrorists opposed to the Northern Ireland process has been laid bare by successive official reports.
Last November, the Independent Monitoring Commission, which reports on terrorist activity every six months, said both the Real IRA – which has claimed responsibility for the Antrim barracks attack – and the Continuity IRA were "particularly active" last year.
It said the "great majority" of republican shootings and assaults were the work of the Real IRA, which it said posed a "serious and continuing threat... to lives".
Then last week, parliament's intelligence and security committee, which reports direct to the Prime Minister, said that while the Provisional IRA was "committed to the peace process", the Real IRA and Continuity IRA "continue to pose a threat to Great Britain, and to Northern Ireland in particular".
Lord Foulkes, a member of the intelligence and security committee, said a forthcoming report was likely to demand extra resources for counter-terrorism activity in the province. He said the police and MI5 were aware of the growing concern, but this had to be shared by civil liberties groups, opposed to the use of CCTV. "The problem is that the kind of people we are talking about are pretty indiscriminate and opportunistic. They have to be watched very carefully."
Tributes pour in for 'magnificent' soldiers
THE two soldiers shot dead outside an army barracks in Northern Ireland were yesterday hailed as "magnificent" by the province's most senior soldier.
Brigadier George Norton also called the killing by the Real IRA a "callous and clinical attack". The shooting outside Massereene Barracks claimed the lives of Sapper Mark Quinsey, 23, and Sapper Patrick Azimkar, 21, both of the 25 Field Squadron of 38 Engineer Regiment.
Two other servicemen and two pizza delivery men – Anthony Watson, 19, and a 32-year-old Pole – were seriously injured in the shooting, which sent shockwaves through the province.
Sapper Quinsey, from Birmingham, joined the army at 19 and was described as a "charismatic and affable soldier" with potential and a charming "Brummie banter". Lieutenant Colonel Roger Lewis, commanding officer of 38 Engineer Regiment, said: "Sapper Quinsey was a social livewire and hugely popular across the regiment, he was rarely away from the centre of the action. Professionally, his approach reflected his infectious enthusiasm for life."
More than 100 people paid tribute to him on the social networking site Facebook.
Sapper Azimkar, from London, had trials with the English Premiership football team Tottenham Hotspur. A club spokesman said: "Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends."
Fellow soldiers paid tribute to his "cheeky smile" and tireless work ethic.
Analysis: The Real IRA are far from alone among dissident Republicans
Dr Mark Hayes
THE attack on the Massereene Barracks, which was apparently the work of the "Real IRA", raises important questions about the nature and purpose of "dissident" Republicanism in Ireland. The Real IRA, formed in 1997 by those Republicans who refused to countenance a ceasefire, has been largely dormant since the devastating Omagh bomb in 1998.
The appalling human cost of that attack seemed to underscore the notion that physical force Republicanism had lost all semblance of legitimacy in the context of a peace process.
The Good Friday Agreement was extraordinary in many ways, not least because of the apparent accommodation between former political enemies, but it unquestionably fell well short of the traditional Republican objective of a united Ireland.
No amount of rhetorical evasion by Sinn Fein could obscure the fact that the existence of the Northern Ireland state was effectively endorsed as a consequence of the agreement. A few cross-border organisations and the early release of prisoners did not constitute any kind of "success". This realisation has led to the formation of numerous so-called "dissident" groupings, dissatisfied with the apparently paltry return on Republican investment. Many Republicans, and indeed ex-members of the IRA, have criticised the leadership of the Provisionals without urging a return to armed conflict.
However, there have been other groups that have re-set themselves the task of liberating Ireland by force. The Continuity IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann are both pertinent examples of the type. The Real IRA may have carried out the Massereene attack, but the other organisations have also been quite active.
These Republicans describe the Provisionals' re-evaluation of strategic imperatives and the peace process as a betrayal of traditional Republican objectives. Republicans of this persuasion do not see the Good Friday Agreement as a workable compromise – they see Provisional pragmatism and diplomatic manoeuvring as a consequence of a combination of complicity with the enemy and British counter-insurgency.
Hence Gerry Adams' tardy endorsement of police actions to apprehend the perpetrators in Antrim will simply, in their terms, underscore the veracity of their "analysis". Indeed, Sinn Fein is now in the extraordinary and (for them) uncomfortable position of defending the British Army and the Northern Ireland state. Both Adams and Martin McGuinness now have the unenviable task of attempting to reassure their political colleagues at Stormont that they are committed to security, while simultaneously not alienating those remaining members of Sinn Fein who feel distinctly uneasy about criticising fellow Republicans.
One of the more remarkable aspects of the peace process has been the extent to which the Sinn Fein leadership has sustained party unity and credibility in onerous circumstances.
• Dr Mark Hayes is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Criminology at Southampton Solent University.
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