Friday, June 03, 2005

Bloody Sunday rifle found in Africa

Brian Hutton:

Shocking claims by former Army leader Tim Collins that his troops recovered a rifle in Africa that had been used on Bloody Sunday but was declared destroyed by the Ministry of Defence a year earlier, drew calls today for a full investigation of the matter.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was one of the 13 civilians shot dead by the Parachute Regiment on the day, was extremely startled to learn of the revelations when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph.

Massive questions have been raised about the Ministry of Defence's participation in the Saville Inquiry in light of the claims, according to Mr Kelly.

In his just published book, Rules of Engagement, Belfast-born Colonel Collins tells how his troops recovered the rifle from a terrorist group in Sierra Leone in September 2000.

The SLR was one of two weapons the Army "deactivated as souvenirs" of their ambush operation.

In a footnote to the incident he says: "The rifles were old British Army self-loading rifles.

"It was only when they were back to the UK that it was discovered from the serial numbers that one of the rifles was actually an old 1 Para rifle.

"It was used on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972 when 13 protesters had been shot - and it had been declared destroyed when the Saville Inquiry into the shootings had asked for it."

The Saville Inquiry in 1999 was told that 14 rifles of the 29 originally presented to the original Widgery Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, had been destroyed, while 10 had been sold.

Colonel Collins, who was cleared of war crimes allegations two years ago, made headlines for his rousing speech to the Royal Irish Regiment before they entered into battle in Iraq in 2003.

The 44-year-old drew praise from Prince Charles and President George W Bush, who was believed to have requested a copy of the speech for the wall of the Oval Office.

John Kelly has called for the Saville Inquiry, which is currently preparing its final report, to confront the MoD about the claims.

"If this is one of the rifles used in Bloody Sunday then it is vital evidence. It could be one of the murder weapons," he said.

"Are the MoD lying? Somebody is lying.

"If Tim Collins has proof of this then he should make himself available to the inquiry," he said.

A man to rally the unionist troops

Call For Collins To Face Saville

Bloody Sunday gun 'found in Africa'

War: Rules of Engagement by Tim Collins


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