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Man Killed, Two Hurt in IRA Power Base

March 12, 2003

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ One man was fatally shot and two others were wounded in an Irish Republican Army power base on Northern Ireland’s border, police said Wednesday.

The dead man, who wasn’t identified, was found at daybreak near a gas station in the village of Cullaville in South Armagh, a border region nicknamed ``bandit country″ because of its IRA sympathies.

Two of the victim’s associates later turned up in different hospitals, one suffering from gunshot wounds to the legs _ an IRA form of punishment _ the other with unspecified head wounds that required surgery.

Detectives believe the same gang attacked all three. They declined to specify a motive.

Conor Murphy, the leading politician in South Armagh from the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, said he didn’t know if the IRA was responsible.

``Regardless of who carried out this shooting or the motivation behind it, it is wrong, it should not have happened, and Sinn Fein is totally opposed to such activity,″ said Murphy, a paroled IRA convict.

The violence came as most of Northern Ireland’s leading politicians left for Washington, where they planned to attend St. Patrick’s Day festivities scheduled for Thursday at the White House and U.S. capitol.

Efforts to restore Northern Ireland’s Catholic-Protestant administration _ the central achievement of the U.S.-brokered 1998 peace accord here _ appears to depend on the IRA’s next steps.

Protestants insist they will not resume work with Sinn Fein unless the IRA renounces all forms of violence and completely disarms.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair plans to offer a new peace package in early April to break the deadlock.

The IRA killed about 1,800 people from 1970 to 1997 in hopes of abolishing Northern Ireland as a British territory.

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