Two army personnel were shot dead during a drive-by shooting at an army base in Co Antrim last night, raising fears that the grim spectre of terrorism has returned to haunt Northern Ireland.
Two more military personnel and two pizza delivery men were wounded in what is the first major terrorist attack in the province for over a decade. One of the injured is critical, two are serious and one is serious but stable, police said today, as a major manhunt for the gunmen continued.
Gordon Brown condemned the “cowardly attack” and vowed it would not affect progress in the region. “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 Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, described the shooting as an attack on the peace process and said it was “wrong and counter-productive”. “Those responsible have no support, no strategy to achieve a united Ireland,” he said.
“Their intention is to bring British soldiers back onto the streets. They want to destroy the progress of recent times and to plunge Ireland back into conflict…”
The investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Derek Williamson, today said the gunmen fired one burst with automatic weapons then walked forward and shot the victims as they lay on the ground. The two soldiers killed were both aged in their early twenties, and were due to fly to Afghanistan on active service in the coming days. The pizza delivery men were also described as young…
If the killings are confirmed as the work of dissident terrorists, it represents a return to the campaign of assassination of soldiers and police officers, that was meant to have ended when the IRA declared its final ceasefire in July 1997.
Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but security sources said the incident was undoubtedly the work of dissident organisations opposed to the peace settlement .
There’s always a few violent egregious bastards who think they can speed up and solve history by murdering a few people. Sometimes they’re part of a dissident sect. Sometimes they have the power of a whole nation’s military at their beck and call.
Either version, they’re ethically corrupt and politically bankrupt. And so history shall judge them.
UPDATED: Sectarian killers from the self-titled Real IRA claim “credit” for the assassinations.