Threat of civil war returns as British soldiers are murdered in Northern Ireland

The peace process in Northern Ireland is under threat, and the spectre of civil war returning to the UK is raising its ugly head, after two British soldiers were shot dead in a drive-by shooting by suspected IRA dissidents last night.

Four others, including two civilian pizza delivery men delivering to the army base, are wounded in hospital.

At least two gunmen opened fire on four soldiers taking delivery of food from the two Domino's Pizza drivers.

It is the first attack on British military personnel in Northern Ireland since 1997, and now the threat of a bloody civil war returning the UK is all too real. The peace process has been in place since 1998 after 30 years of conflict brought bloodshed in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

The attacks, which took place at the Massereene barracks in Antrim, were condemned by both the British and Irish governments.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "No murderer will be able to derail the peace process, that has the support of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland"

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said: "I condemn absolutely this murderous attack. The targets of this attack are the Irish people, North and South. This is an attempt to undermine the remarkable progress of recent years."

And Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the shootings were wrong and were an attack on the Northern Ireland peace process, which is supported by the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland.

Two soldiers executed in drive-by shooting as terror returns to Northern Ireland

By Mail On Sunday Reporter
08th March 2009
Daily Mai

Suspected IRA dissidents who killed two British soldiers and wounded four others outside an army base last night shot their victims again as they lay wounded on the ground.

The victims, including two men delivering pizzas, were hit by bullets fired indiscriminately by at least two gunmen at the entrance to Massereene Barracks in Antrim, 16 miles west of Belfast.

Police Chief Superintendent Derek Williamson, who is leading the hunt for the killers, said a car carrying two men both armed with assault rifles opened fire on a group of four soldiers taking delivery of food from two Domino's Pizza drivers.

He said: 'I have no doubt in my mind this was an attempt at mass murder.'

Forensics experts are today examining the scene at Massereene Barracks in Antrim where two soldiers were shot dead last night

He said it wasn't clear whether all six were hit at that point, but that at least one gunman then got out of the attackers' vehicle and shot the victims again at close range.

Chief Superintendent Williamson said the two dead men were army engineers in their early 20s who were about to be deployed to Afghanistan. They are the first soldiers to be killed in Northern Ireland since 1997.

'It's clear from what we know at this stage that the terrorists not only wanted to kill soldiers who were there last night but also tried to kill those two pizza delivery men,' he said. 'That indicates to me the ruthlessness of this attack.'

One of injured is believed to be in a critical condition.

Gordon Brown, who branded the attack 'cowardly', and the Irish Government have both insisted the killings will not be allowed to disrupt the peace process.

The front entrance to the barracks: Where the attack took place

Mr Brown said this morning: 'Our first priority has always been the safety of people in Northern Ireland, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that Northern Ireland is safe and secure.

'No murderer will be able to derail the peace process, that has the support of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland. We will step up our efforts to make the peace process one that lasts and endures.'

The Massereene army barracks

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said: 'I condemn absolutely this murderous attack. The targets of this attack are the Irish people, North and South.

'This is an attempt to undermine the remarkable progress of recent years. The perpetrators of this assault have no mandate. They will not be allowed to succeed. They must be brought to justice.'

'The Irish and British governments are working closely together with the political parties in Northern Ireland and will not be deflected from our path,' Mr Martin added.

A policeman stands in the entrance to the barracks

Mr Martin was in close contact with Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, following the attack.

'My thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured in this murderous attack,' Mr Woodward said. 'The people who did this will be pursued and they can be assured that they will never be able stop political progress in Northern Ireland.'

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the shootings were wrong and were an attack on the Northern Ireland peace process.

Sinn Feinn's Gerry Adams condemned the attacks

The MP said the perpetrators had no support and he urged party members to help the police investigation.

'Last night's attack was an attack on the peace process. It was wrong and counter productive,' he said.

'Those responsible have no support, no strategy to achieve a united Ireland. Their intention is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets.

Two pizza delivery drivers were among the four people injured in the shooting

'They want to destroy the progress of recent times and to plunge Ireland back into conflict.'

Mr Adams stated that Irish republicans and democrats had a duty to oppose violence and to defend the peace process.

'There should be an end to actions like the one in Antrim last night. The popular will is for peaceful and democratic change.

'Sinn Fein has a responsibility to be consistent. The logic of this is that we support the police in the apprehension of those involved in last night's attack.'

The area around the barracks was sealed off following the incident at 9.40pm yesterday amid a major security operation and sirens could be heard blaring inside the buildings.

Six ambulances and three paramedic vehicles transported the injured to Antrim Area Hospital, about a mile from the barracks, the home of 38 Engineering Regiment.

A man lays flowers at the scene of a shooting

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence described the shooting as a 'drive-by' attack.

One witness who lives near the base told the BBC how he looked to the sky after hearing what he thought were fireworks.

He added: 'I heard a lot of loud bangs again, only it was a lot more than there were initially - maybe between ten and 20.

'The siren at the Army barracks went off. All you heard were the police sirens and ambulances. There were definitely six ambulances and God knows how many police cars - they just came out of the police station one after the other.'

No one has so far claimed responsibility.

The attack comes shortly after Sir Hugh Orde, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, requested the Special Reconnaissance Regiment's help to gather intelligence on dissident republicans believed to be plotting a bomb attack or assassination in the run-up to St Patrick's Day on March 17.

Patrol: Police have set up checkpoints near the barracks

He said intelligence tip-offs indicate that IRA dissidents pose their greatest threat since he took the top Ulster policing post seven years ago.

'We are supported by a very small number of specialists from the Army... who increase my technical capacity,' Sir Hugh said.

Chief Superintendent Derek Williamson described the attack as 'an attempt at mass murder'

The shooting is a setback to hopes that lasting peace had been established in Northern Ireland since Tony Blair won approval for the historic Good Friday Agreement between Ulster's rival factions in 1998.

Although there have been repeated setbacks in the last ten years, the political solution has been largely successful. Since succeeding Mr Blair two years ago, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has not needed to devote too much attention to Ulster.

But that could change if the killings - the first of military personnel in Ulster since February 1997 - mark a return to a higher level of terrorist activity.

Mr Brown is expected to discuss the shootings at the earliest possible opportunity with Mr Woodward.

There have also been a series of failed bomb attacks, one just a few weeks ago near Castlewellan, Co Down, when security forces defused a 300lb bomb which may have been intended for an attack on a nearby barracks.

Northern Ireland's First Minister and Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson offered his sympathies to the victims’ families and said he would postpone a scheduled trip to the United States.

He said the attack was a ‘terrible reminder of the events of the past,’ adding: ‘These murders were a futile act by those who command no public support and have no prospect of success in their campaign. It will not succeed.’

Ian Paisley Jnr, a Democratic Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a member of the Policing Board, said the shooting could be a defining moment in the history of Northern Ireland.

He said: ‘For the last ten years, people believed things like this happened in places like Basra. Unfortunately it has returned to our doorstep.’

He added: ‘There are people who have been intent on murdering police officers or soldiers, or someone else, to strike home and galvanise support for some mad cause. This is where we are tonight.

‘Some people also tried to exaggerate that message, and if this shooting is attributed to dissident republicans, then it was no exaggeration.’
Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 8th, 2009 at 11:39 AM..
Is there any talk of banning Domino's Pizza in the UK?
Is MsCain Irish? I like his rising-crust pizza!