British Troops Said to Kill Three IRA Guerrillas With PM-Northern Ireland, Bjt
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ British commandos today intercepted three IRA gunmen intent on attacking Protestant workers, killing the guerrillas with a fusillade of up to 200 shots, British news reports said.
The killings came less than 24 hours after Celia Gourley, a Northern Ireland civil servant, suffered serious leg injuries when a bomb exploded under her car. The British Broadcasting Corp. reported the IRA claimed responsibility, but said Mrs. Gourley was injured by mistake. The group did not give its intended target.
Concerning today’s shootings in the British province, police would say only that three men, believed to be connected with the Irish Republican Army, were found dead in a burned-out car after an encounter with an army patrol in the village of Coagh, 30 miles west of Belfast.
News reports said at least one shot fired by the soldiers hit the gas tank of the men’s stolen car, enveloping it in flames.
Sinn Fein, the IRA’s legal political wing, identified the dead men as Peter Ryan, Tony Dorris and Lawrence McNally. Press Association, the British domestic news agency, reported security forces regarded the three as leading IRA gunmen.
Police said they were not involved in the operation but said uniformed soldiers fired the shots.
Security sources said a Special Air Service unit had staked out a location in anticipation of an ambush, Press Association reported. The SAS, created during World War II, is made up of specially trained troops.
British news reports said the three men were on their way to mount an attack on Protestant workmen in the village when they were intercepted by the British commandos. Two rifles were found beside the charred remains of the stolen car, Press Association reported.
Witnesses said the soldiers fired up to 200 shots.
A woman who lives nearby said she heard the shooting.
″It seemed to go on and on. It was terrible and when I went outside I could see the smoke coming from the car,″ she said.
In other violence today, a spokesman for the British army said a large explosion occurred at the Bally Cassidy sawmill next to the army base at St. Angelo airfield, 70 miles west of Belfast.
There were no reports of any injuries at the base, used for helicopter patrols, the army spokesman said. The blast shattered windows in homes several hundred yards away.
Press Association said terrorists drove a truck into the sawmill, but it was not know if mortars were fired from the truck or if explosives were concealed inside. The agency said the truck’s driver escaped.
Police said a family living near the base was held captive by two armed men. The men left early today in the family’s car, which was found burned, police said.
The IRA claimed responsibility Saturday for a truck-bombing the night before that killed three soldiers, injured 11 and demolished an Ulster Defense Regiment base 40 miles south of Belfast.
Violence has increased since April when talks were supposed to start involving the British and Irish governments and the main Roman Catholic and Protestant parties on restoring a degree of self-rule for Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein has been excluded from the talks.
The IRA’s military campaign, supported by a minority of Catholics in Northern Ireland, grew out of the Catholic civil rights protests and violent clashes of the 1960s.
The IRA has attacked police and army units in its effort to end British rule in the province, and has killed people it claims were Protestant paramilitaries, informers or collaborators.