IRA Claims Killing of Police Officer, Worker
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for two slayings Saturday following a week of violence that some fear could disrupt planned peace efforts.
The killings raised to four the number of victims of sectarian and political unrest in Northern Ireland last week. At least 19 people have been killed this year in the province.
The body of police Sgt. Samuel Ernest McCrum, 62, was found in his wife’s antique shop in Lisburn, seven miles south of Belfast. The IRA claimed responsibility for the killing in a call to a radio station.
Earlier Saturday, the IRA said it killed Ian Joseph Sproule, a 23-year-old carpenter who was shot and killed as he drove to his home in Castlederg, 65 miles west of Belfast, police and British news reports said.
The IRA claimed Sproule was a member of the outlawed loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force. The man’s family denied he was a member of the force, and police said Sproule had no connections with the security units.
A local legislator, whose cousin was killed by the IRA on Tuesday, said the the province was ″on the slippery slope to civil war.″
″Fear is gripping the law-abiding community of Ulster and thugs roam free,″ said Rev. William McCrea, a member of Parliament representing Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke said earlier this week that guerrillas on both sides might try to unsettle planned talks on the province’s political future, scheduled to begin in late April or early May. No specific date has been set.
On Tuesday, McCrea’s cousin, 30-year-old Derek Ferguson, was shot and killed by IRA gunmen in the village of Coagh, about 30 miles west of Belfast.
On Thursday, Colm Marks died from wounds suffered in what police called a confrontation with security forces Wednesday in Downpatrick, 20 miles south of Belfast. Police said a primed mortar bomb was found close to where Marks was shot.
The IRA on Thursday said Marks was an IRA volunteer ″killed on active service,″ the British news agency Press Association reported.
On Friday, a businessman was seriously injured in a bomb blast in Portadown, about 25 miles southwest of Belfast.
The outlawed IRA said it planted the bomb in retaliation for recent murders of Roman Catholics, Press Association reported.
More than 2,800 have died in sectarian and political strife in Northern Ireland since 1969.
In its military campaign to end British rule, the IRA has attacked police and army units and killed people it claims were Protestant paramilitaries, informers or collaborators with British rule. The campaign is supported by a minority of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, who represent 40 percent of the population.
Paramilitary groups rooted in Northern Ireland’s majority Protestant community have generally attacked people they claim are members of the IRA or other ″republican″ groups opposed to British rule.