British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday condemned the "murderers" who shot dead a police officer in Northern Ireland but pledged there would be "no return to the old days" when such killings were common.
The officer was shot late Monday, just two days after two British troops were killed at a military base in the province. Police said 48-year old Stephen Paul Carroll was shot in the head in Craigavon, a town southwest of Belfast. He was one of four officers who responded in two patrol cars to a call from a “terrified member of community” about 9:45 p.m., Chief Constable Hugh Orde told reporters early Tuesday. The victim’s vehicle came under fire and he was killed. Dissident republican group, the Continuity IRA, claimed responsibility for the attack, The British Press Association reported. Brown said of the killing: “These are murderers who are trying to distort, disrupt and destroy a political process that is working for the people or Northern Ireland.” He said the Northern Irish people “do not want a return to guns on the street.” Referring to the gunmen, he added: “They will never be allowed to destroy or undermine the political process.” Paying tribute to Carroll, he said: “There will be no return to the old days. My first first thoughts are for the family of the very brave policeman who has been killed and for the police force.” Orde declined to give details about the nature of the caller or the “threat” to which the officers were responding. The incident followed the killings Saturday of two British soldiers who were shot at a base in Massereene, in County Antrim, as they were preparing to ship out for duty in Afghanistan. The victims had already packed their bags, changed into desert uniforms and were awaiting a final pizza delivery, authorities said. Watch more about the dissident threat » “Some of them decided to order a final takeaway pizza before they departed,” Brigadier George Norton said from the base.
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Two masked gunmen with automatic rifles shot the soldiers as the pizzas arrived at the Army barracks, authorities said. Two other soldiers and the two pizza deliverymen were seriously wounded. “They [the gunmen] continued firing at the men even when [soldiers were] injured, even when some had fallen to the ground,” Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward told parliament on Monday. “The firing lasted for more than thirty seconds — more than sixty shots were fired.” Another militant splinter group, the Real IRA, reportedly claimed it had carried out the attack on the soldiers. Monday’s shooting at the working-class Craigavon neighborhood seemed to underscore mounting tensions there in recent months. The area is known to harbor dissidents, and it experienced rioting and raids last year as police looked for suspected terrorists. Officials with Sinn Fein, a predominantly Catholic party that wants Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and become part of the Republic of Ireland, also spoke out against the attack. The party is widely thought to be linked to the Irish Republican Army. The two soldiers killed Saturday — Cengiz “Pat” Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23 — were the first British troops to be killed in the province in more than 12 years, the Ministry of Defence said. The shootings sparked fears of a return to the sectarian violence that Northern Ireland suffered for two decades before that. Northern Ireland, a province of the United Kingdom, was racked for decades by violence between unionists, who are mostly Protestant and want to remain part of the UK; and republicans, who are mostly Catholic and want to join the Republic of Ireland. For nearly 30 years, British soldiers patrolled Northern Ireland in armored vehicles and hunkered down in bases surrounded by concrete walls and barbed wire. Violence spilled over into Britain, with the Irish Republican Army, known as the IRA, bombing London and other British cities.
Northern Ireland now has a power-sharing government and a prevailing peace that had been welcomed by all but radical splinter groups on both sides. Gerry Adams, the republican movement’s leading figure and head of Sinn Fein, earlier Monday said the attack on the soldiers was “an attempt to subvert the peace process, an attempt to bring everybody back to conflict, to bring more British soldiers onto the streets — and we are not going to allow that to happen.”