IRA Gunmen Shoot Youth To Death; Police Deny He Was Soldier or Officer
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Irish Republican Army gunmen today shot to death a teen-ager who they claimed was a police officer, but police said the youth had no connection with security forces.
Gary Smith, 19, had parked his car and was about to attend classes at a technical college near the predominantly Roman Catholic Falls Road area of Belfast when two hooded gunmen approached him.
Police said the pair fired at point-blank range, shooting Smith in the head and killing him instantly. The gunmen then fled in a van driven by a third person. It was found abandoned a short time later.
The van had been stolen from a nearby family who were held hostage overnight by the gunmen, said police.
The IRA claimed in a statement sent to a local news agency that the teen- ager was a member of the Protestant-dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary police force.
But a constabulary spokesman, who declined to be identified, said the youth was not a policeman and had no connection with any security force in the province.
He was the 33rd person to die in sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland this year, and the 2,443th known to have been killed since violence flared in 1969.
The mostly Catholic IRA has been waging a guerrilla war against British rule in predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland, seeking to unite the province with majority-Catholic Ireland under a socialist government.
The IRA is illegal on both sides of the border.
The police spokesman said it was the second case of mistaken identity this month.
On May 3, a County Down farmer, Billy Heenan, was shot to death in front of his 13-year-old son on his isolated farm. An IRA statement said he was a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The constabulary said Heenan was never a full-time policeman, although 20 years ago he was a member of the Ulster Special Constabulary, a police reserve unit widely regarded by Catholics as a private Protestant army. That unit was dismantled in 1970.
Meanwhile, doctors were fighting to save the life of a British army soldier who, according to police, shot himself in the head after he was arrested for questioning after a traffic accident on the ouskirts of Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second-largest city.
Police said the 27-year-old soldier - whose name was not disclosed - was arrested for questioning at 1 a.m.
Moments after he was driven in a police car into the courtyard of the city’s police headquarters, he pulled out a handgun and shot himself, a spokesman said.
A spokesman at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry said the soldier, a member of the locally recruited Ulster Defense Regiment of the British army, was in ″very critical condition.″