'Shoot to Kill' policy in Northern Ireland
Under the Intelligence Services Act of 1994, MI6 officers have immunity from prosecution for crimes committed outside Great Britain. Although The Criminal Justice Bill of 1998 makes it illegal for any organization in Great Britain to conspire to commit offenses abroad, Crown agents still have immunity. With the end of World War Two the SOE (Special Operations Executive) undoubted ability in both subversion and assassination was absorbed into the Secret Intelligence Service and for many years afterwards Britain is believed to have made regular, if sparing use of assassination to further its foreign policy aims.
The Littlejohn Brothers were recruited in 1972 by John Wyman of MI6 who handled a number of agents in Northern Ireland and paid them substantial sums of tax payers money to infiltrate the IRA and to act as agent provocateurs, organizing and conducting bank robberies and bomb attacks in the Republic of Ireland. Wyman told them that there was "going to be a policy of political assassination" for which they were to make themselves available. "If I was told about any illegal act before it happened, I would always discuss it with London. I was always told to go ahead," said Kenneth Littlejohn who went on to claim that the MI6 Officer told him 'If there is any shooting, do what you've got to do.'" Wyman indeed gave the Littlejohn's a list of IRA leaders to assassinate; these included Seamus Costello, Sean Qarland and Sean McStiofain. After Littlejohn passed on the name of Joe McCann, a leading Republican, to his MI6 handler, McCann was shot dead by British paratroopers a few days later as he walked, apparently unarmed, through the Belfast market area.
Whatever one may think of such claims, there is now at least official confirmation from the Steven's Inquiry into the 'Shoot to Kill' policy in Northern Ireland that British security officials were indeed deeply involved in the assassination of a number of Catholics in the province. The Guardian in April 28th 2001, headlined its article Sinister role of secret army unit: Police investigate claims of collusion with paramilitaries describes the organizations involved in covert British operations in Ireland "The FRU was one of three army-sponsored undercover intelligence squads in Northern Ireland. The others were 22 Squadron SAS, and 14 Company. The FRU, which was set up in Northern Ireland in 1980, dealt with recruiting and handling agents in paramilitary organizations." Company specialized in surveillance while 22 SAS undertook 'executive actions'. 'That means they killed people,' said an army source. Many outside observers remain convinced that this is merely the tip of an iceberg and much is still being hidden by an ongoing official cover-up.
The Real Terrorists in Northern Ireland
SAS (Special Air Service) is a secret regiment in the British Army. It was formed in 1941 to conduct raids behind the German lines in North Africa. At the present it forms part of the United Kingdom Special Forces alongside the Special Boat Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment. The role of the SAS includes intelligence gathering, behind enemy lines target attacks, counter revolutionary warfare, conducting military missions without official British Government involvement, training special forces of other nationalities, and counter-terrorism operations. SAS is subject to the Sovereign Queen only.
The SAS was deeply involved in the British conflict in Northern Ireland since its start in 1969. At the beginning they operated openly in their own uniform, and later on they planted moles in the IRA, who were involved in terror bombing. The well known August 15th, 1998 Omagh bombing attack, which killed 29 civilians was done by an SAS double agent as reported by Sunday Herald. The Paper also reported the confession of another SAS member, who operated as an IRA mole from 1981 to 1994 while on full British army pay. He helped to develop a new type of bomb activated by photographic flashes to overcome the problem of IRA remote-control devices being signal jammed by army radio units.
Another mole, known by his codename "Stakeknife", was still active in December of 2002 as one of Belfast's leading provisionals. His military commander "allowed him to carry out large numbers of terrorist murders in order to protect his cover within the IRA".
In late 2002 the paper reported reliable evidence that the British army had used its moles in terrorist organizations to "carry out proxy assassinations", such as the case of the human rights activist Pat Finucane, who was murdered in 1989 by the Protestant Ulster Defense Association (UDA). The mole supplied the UDA with necessary information to assassinate Finucane.
The inside story of British death squads in Northern Ireland
Simon Basketter reveals how a campaign to terrorize Catholics was orchestrated by military intelligence. Operation Banner: An Analysis Of Military Operations In Northern Ireland is the official history of British occupation that started in 1969. The book is co-written by General Mike Jackson, who was second in command of the Parachute Regiment when they shot dead 14 unarmed people after a civil rights march in Derry. He was later to command British forces during the invasion of Iraq. According to the official history, the conflict in Northern Ireland was about two warring tribes, the Catholics and Protestants, who had to be kept apart for their own sakes by British soldiers.
But in reality the occupation of Northern Ireland was brutal, repressive and murderous. Far from keeping “warring tribes” apart, military intelligence recruited, trained and armed Loyalist murder gangs in Northern Ireland, ordering them to carry out a series of assassinations.
The latest source to shed light on the death squads run by the British army in Northern Ireland is known only as “John Black”. He is a convicted Loyalist terrorist. Black alleges that he -along with dozens of other members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a Loyalist terror organization - were trained and armed by British military intelligence. “Military intelligence trained, armed and moulded squads of Loyalists to put pressure on the IRA,” he says. He also claims UVF members were ordered by military intelligence to carry out assassinations in order to sow terror among the Catholic population and undermine the Republican movement. Black was convicted twice of terrorist offences, in the 1970s and in the early 1990s. He says he carried out some 50 UVF operations sanctioned by the army’s secret Force Research Unit (FRU). He became a “killer, bomber, arsonist and robber”, he says.
Black was a UVF member in the early 1970s when he was first approached. As well as being trained in firearms at army barracks and firing ranges around Northern Ireland - primarily at Palace Barracks near Holywood in County Down - Loyalists were given intelligence on potential targets and details about which targets to attack. As many as 120 people could have been trained by military intelligence. At times they were given uniforms to provide cover while they were with their handlers. Black even drank with his handlers in the bars on military bases.
While the army-backed murder squads were active, military intelligence would impose an Out Of Bounds (OOB) order on the area in which the attack was about to take place. A OOB means an intelligence operation is under way - so police and army stay out of the area. This gave Loyalist murder gangs the freedom to operate with impunity. Black says he was trained by the army in how to use a variety of handguns, machine guns and rifles, as well as in bomb making techniques. He claims his handlers gave the UVF consignments of guns and ammunition. Loyalists were given classes on how to avoid leaving incriminating evidence at the scene of crimes and how to steal cars for use in assassination operations. Black says he was told, “We don’t expect that active service units of the UVF will kill somebody every time they go out. The mere fact that an attempt has been made and shots fired - even if they wound or miss altogether - is all part of the terror tactics.” The policy was meant to “scare the shit” out of Catholics.
A bomb was planted in McGurk’s Bar - a predominantly Catholic bar on North Queen Street in Belfast - on 4 December 1971. It exploded, killing 15 men, women and children. In the immediate aftermath of the McGurk’s Bar bombing, the army told the media that the bomb had belonged to the IRA. It had been inside the bar waiting to be transported when it exploded, they said. This was a lie. Seven years later a UVF man received 15 life sentences for the bombing. For years, the families of the victims have been lobbying for the bombing to be reinvestigated. They argue it was the result of collusion between the UVF and the army.
Black says he was told about the planned bombing two weeks before the attack and was with his handler at the time it happened. He also claims he saw his handler take pot shots at Catholic teenagers on the streets of Belfast. Pat Irvine, whose mother Kitty was killed in the McGurk’s bombing, told Socialist Worker, ‘‘It is clear that the attack took place in collusion with the state. We are concerned with ensuring that Black’s paymasters, and those who took the decisions at the highest levels of the establishment, are exposed for their role in collusion. “The family of Kitty Irvine knows this for certain. No doubt, the source will be accused of fantasy or profiteering, as with any other whistleblower on the dirty war in the north east of Ireland. “The British authorities will try to stymie any further investigation into their own government’s and army’s felonies. The government and military are guilty of war crimes against Irish men, women and children.”
In the weeks leading up to Bloody Sunday in Derry, on 30 January 1972, in which the Parachute Regiment killed 14 people, Black claims he was informed by his handlers that the army had been ordered by the cabinet “to use whatever force and tactics necessary to put these troublemakers down”. “The Bloody Sunday massacre was sanctioned by the government and top military chiefs,” he believes. The day before Bloody Sunday, Black says he was taken for a training session at Palace Barracks, where he was given a pep talk by a major who praised him for “having the courage and loyalty to participate in covert actions against the common enemy”. The major told Black, “We are hoping to provoke a confrontation with the IRA in Derry - and give them an example of what to expect in future attacks.”
Black was provided with a uniform, a gas mask, camouflage face paint and a rifle as cover for the time he would spend in Derry with his handler. Black says he watched from a military intelligence observation post as soldiers opened fire on civilians. He claims to have seen members of military intelligence shooting at - and hitting - unarmed civilians from the gun nest in the observation post.
New Lodge Six
In 1973, handlers organised and took part in a gun attack in Belfast that left six Catholic men dead. The killings took place within hours of each other on the night of 3 February and early hours of 4 February in the New Lodge area in the north of the city. The army claimed all six were shot dead during a gun battle with the IRA. But no gun battle took place - and none of the six dead men was armed. Locals and a number of the victims’ families have always alleged the killings took place as a result of collusion between paramilitaries and the army.
Black claims he was one of a team of four gunmen led by an FRU member who opened fire in the New Lodge area that night. Black said his handler phoned him on the day: ‘‘He rang and told me that something was planned for that night - and that our role in it was to create the impression that the New Lodge was under attack from Loyalists. ‘‘Later I listened with him to the military radio until a code came over it, which was the cue for us to start shooting. Me and two other UVF men were positioned in an entry close to Edlingham Street beside the New Lodge. “The four of us fired shots for around 15 minutes, then we went to a different point at Edlingham Street where British soldiers were firing into the area.”
Black said that the attack was designed to draw the local IRA into a gun battle with the troops. John Loughran, a spokesperson for the victims’ families, told Socialist Worker that he is hopeful that Black’s claims will help uncover the truth about what happened that night. ‘‘It is the families’ view that these killings were sanctioned at the highest political levels in Whitehall,” he says. “Now that this has been acknowledged by someone involved in the murky underworld of British military intelligence, this must be considered as new evidence. This is the basis for a new investigation into the killings of six innocent men.”
In 1971 British army brigadier Frank Kitson proposed establishing ‘‘counter gangs’’ to defeat the rapidly developing ‘‘insurgency’’ in the north of Ireland. The philosophy was simple and brutal - terrorize Catholics through the use of Loyalist gangs that were controlled by the security forces, but whose activities could not be traced back to the British government. From the late 1970s onwards, both Labour and Tory governments backed the Force Research Unit which supplied names, addresses and photographs of targets to paramilitaries. During this time the FRU worked alongside the Special Branch of Northern Ireland’s police force.
In the 1980s, the FRU was led by Colonel Gordon Kerr. He now heads British intelligence in Iraq. The key person supplying the information was British army agent Brian Nelson. He infiltrated the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a Loyalist paramilitary group. His information was responsible for the murder of at least 30 Catholics, including solicitor Pat Finucane. Jack Grantham, a former FRU handler, described Nelson’s role “as an extension of the operational capability of the British army”.
“By that I mean refining their targeting, increasing their operational efficiency by re-arming them and using them to target known subversives which fitted the criteria and other type of person that the FRU wanted eliminating.” In January this year the Northern Ireland police ombudsman’s report concluded that one UVF unit in the Mount Vernon area of north Belfast was run by Northern Ireland Special Branch. That unit carried out up to 16 murders. Earlier this month the Department of Public Prosecutions said there would be no prosecution of police or soldiers over the death of Pat Finucane.
In the context of Northern Ireland the term collusion has come to embrace a number of illegal activities on the part of the British forces, British Army, RUC and intelligence services.
In the context of Northern Ireland. These include:
- conspiring with loyalist paramilitaries to carry out assassinations;
- taking part in assassinations;
- collecting information on individuals and passing it over to loyalist paramilitaries;
- passing officially collected information to loyalist paramilitaries for legitimate purposes;
- failing to prevent loyalist paramilitary assassinations; providing weapons to loyalist paramilitaries;
running British intelligence agents involved in illegal loyalist paramilitary activities up to the most senior levels;
- assisting in the commission of killings by loyalist paramilitaries, for example, by lifting road-blocks; failing to investigate such killings rigorously;
- failing to inform individuals that they have been targeted for assassination;
- failing to provide individuals targeted for assassination with the nature of their personal details in the hands of loyalist paramilitaries;
- failing to share information with other sections of the British forces which should result in an individual being warned that they were being targeted for assassination;
- failed to prosecute those responsible for such killings;
- failed to prosecute or otherwise discipline those members of the British forces involved in collusion;
- used Public Interest Immunity certificates and claims at trials and inquests to withhold information concerning alleged collusion;
- allowed members of the British forces to carry illegal acts, whether in conspiracy with loyalist paramilitaries or not, with impunity and hindering official investigations of those acts.
The Scot behind Ulster's dirty war
Elite unit passed intelligence to UDA death squads
INVESTIGATION The Sunday Herald today names for the first time the Scottish military intelligence officer who controlled an ultra-secret covert army unit in Northern Ireland that colluded with loyalist terror gangs to murder at least 14 Catholics. Brigadier Gordon Kerr ran the counter-intelligence Force Research Unit (FRU) in Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1991. He is to be questioned by Sir John Stevens, the Scotland Yard commissioner, over allegations that his unit aided and abetted loyalist killers as part of a state-sanctioned murder campaign.
Photographs and intelligence reports on republican targets were deliberately passed by the FRU to members of the outlawed Ulster Defence Association, which then passed the information to its gunmen to carry out sectarian and political executions. One of the FRU's key agents was Brian Nelson, the UDA's chief intelligence officer. Two of Nelson's FRU handlers were Scottish soldiers, and one of his RUC handlers was also Scottish. Before he was recruited as an army agent, Nelson had been a private in the Black Watch regiment. He was later jailed but now lives in hiding in Germany. Kerr, who comes from the Aberdeen area, served with the Gordon Highlanders before moving to Northern Ireland.
One FRU source, who spoke to the Sunday Herald under guarantee of anonymity, said: ''We were able to take out leading Provos with the help of the UDA. It was a great military move.'' Kerr, who is currently the military attache to the British embassy in Beijing, will be interrogated by members of the Stevens' inquiry team within the next three months, as will at least two other high-ranking FRU members. The Sunday Herald understands that Stevens plans to arrest a number of FRU officers shortly. The principal killing that Stevens is investigating is the 1989 murder of the solicitor Pat Finucane, whose clients included many leading nationalists. He was gunned down by loyalists in front of his wife and children at his Belfast home.
A former FRU member who served under Kerr, Philip Campbell Smith, was arrested by detectives from the Stevens team early last week for threatening witnesses. Smith, a 41-year-old security consultant from Northamptonshire allegedly intimidated a former military intelligence agent, who uses the cover name Martin Ingram. Ingram has voluntarily co-operated with the Stevens inquiry by giving a detailed statement about the covert activities of the FRU in Ulster. Smith allegedly threatened Ingram by sending e-mails revealing his address. This could have led to republicans trying to kill Ingram. Smith is the author of a Ministry of Defence-approved book, The Fishers of Men. It was written under the pseudonym Rob Lewis and details the FRU role in Northern Ireland.
The Sunday Herald's FRU source described Smith's book as being ''riddled with disinformation and lies''. The Ministry of Defence said it had ''full confidence in the suitability and capability'' of Kerr to continue working as the British military attache in Beijing. The MoD said it had no intention of launching an inquiry into Kerr and his role as FRU commander following information that the Stevens inquiry wanted to interrogate him. At the time of the Finucane murder, the Tory government was under pressure from its back benches to take a strong hand with the IRA. It was often said that the army should ''eliminate'' known paramilitaries, given the extent of high-level intelligence on IRA volunteers. The role of Kerr and the FRU in the dirty war is not a story that the British government nor establishment want to be revealed. The government has already gagged the Sunday People newspaper for trying to publish a story similar to today's investigation in the Sunday Herald. Probing the activities of the FRU has also led to the Sunday Times and Ireland's Sunday Tribune being hounded under the Official Secrets Act.Turning a blind eye to murder Sir John Stevens' report on collusion, the darkest corner of Northern Ireland's "dirty war", is the most damning indictment ever made of British intelligence operations in the province. It paints a shocking picture of sections of army intelligence and RU...
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