Three arrested over N. Irish soldier killings

Soldiers Cengiz Azimkar, left, and Mark Quinsey were killed last Sunday at a base in Massereene.
Three men have been arrested by detectives investigating the murders of two soldiers in Northern Ireland last week, a spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland police said Saturday.

They are the first arrests in the case. All three men, who are ages 41, 32 and 21, have been taken to the police service’s Serious Crime Suite in Antrim, the spokeswoman said. Police are continuing to investigate, she said. The two soldiers killed Saturday — Azimkar, 21, and Quinsey, 23 — were the first British troops to be killed in the province in more than 12 years, the Ministry of Defense confirmed. The two British soldiers were shot dead a week ago at a base in Massereene, in Antrim, as they were preparing to ship out for duty in Afghanistan. The soldiers, Cengiz “Pat” Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23, had already packed their bags and changed into desert uniforms, authorities said. Two masked gunmen with automatic rifles shot them as the soldiers picked up a pizza delivery at the barracks, authorities said. Two other soldiers and the two pizza delivery men were seriously wounded. The shooting has sparked fears of a return to the sectarian violence that Northern Ireland suffered until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, a period known as The Troubles in which 3,600 people were killed. A militant splinter group that does not accept the Good Friday Agreement, the Real IRA, reportedly claimed it had carried out the attack on the soldiers. Two days after the soldiers were killed, a police officer was killed in a shooting southwest of Belfast. Constable Stephen Carroll was one of four officers who were responding to call in Craigavon when his vehicle came under fire and he was killed.

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Three people have been arrested in connection with the police officer’s death. They are 17, 37, and a man in his 20s, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said. The Continuity IRA, another republican splinter group, said it had killed Carroll, Britain’s Press Association reported. Politicians from across the political spectrum have condemned the killings, with Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness calling the killers “traitors to the island of Ireland.”

Sinn Fein is a predominantly Catholic party that wants Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and become part of the Republic of Ireland. The party is widely thought to be linked to the Irish Republican Army. Danny Kennedy, deputy leader of the loyalist Ulster Unionist Party, which wants Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, also condemned the attack as “wicked and murderous.”