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Gerry Adams stopped at checkpoint, accuses soldiers of harassment

December 13, 1996

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Gerry Adams, president of the IRA’s political ally Sinn Fein, and a party colleague were stopped and questioned by soldiers at a security checkpoint Thursday night.

Police were called to the roadblock near Banbridge, 20 miles southwest of Belfast, but Adams and Sinn Fein colleague Gerry Kelly were later allowed to go on their way.

Adams and Kelly, reputedly a senior IRA figure, said the British army soldiers searched their car and verbally abused them. A Sinn Fein statement said the two were on their way back from a party meeting when they were stopped.

The checkpoint was manned by soldiers of the Royal Irish Regiment, a British Army unit whose members are all recruited in Northern Ireland. The regiment is composed mostly of Protestants, who form the province’s pro-British majority, and is generally disliked by Catholics.

Belfast police headquarters said in a statement: ``It is not our policy to discuss security matters.

Amid the constant tight security in Northern Ireland, soldiers manning security checkpoints routinely stop and question occupants of cars and other vehicles. Catholics have frequently accused soldiers manning the roadblocks of aggressive behavior toward those they suspect of supporting the aims of the Irish Republican Army fighting to end British rule in the province.

Earlier Thursday, police discovered an IRA mortar hidden inside a plastic garbage can in an alleyway beside Girdwood barracks, the main British army base in north Belfast. The shell inside contained 2 pounds of Semtex plastic explosive and was ready to be fired through a hole cut in the garbage can, they said.

An anonymous caller told police on Wednesday night there was a bomb near the base. Police evacuated surrounding houses but found no bombs, and now assume that the warning was intended to attract targets to the area.

The IRA called a cease-fire in 1994 but resumed hostilities in February with a one-ton truck bomb in London’s Docklands that killed two news vendors. The outlawed group resumed attacks in Northern Ireland on Oct. 7 by detonating two car bombs inside the British army headquarters southwest of Belfast, fatally wounding a soldier.

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