Thursday, September 22, 2005

Basra attack echoes SAS actions in North

Jarlath Kearney:

Sinister covert operations by British forces in Iraq are “reminscent of the activities of the SAS" in the North, a leading human rights campaigner said last night.

Paul O'Connor, of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), demanded that the British government “break the cycle of abuse" imposed by its forces.

He also questioned the “sheepish" decision by large sections of the media to “report the MOD line as established fact".

Mr O'Connor was speaking to Daily Ireland after further details emerged about an incident in Basra on Monday afternoon involving undercover British operatives.

The incident drew parallels with the March 1988 attack on the funeral of IRA volunteer Caoimhghin Mac Bradaigh.

During that incident, two armed and undercover army intelligence operatives drove directly at the cortege in west Belfast. After firing a shot, both soldiers were subsequently captured, beaten and shot dead by the IRA.

In Monday's incident, both undercover soldiers are reported to have opened fire after being stopped and challenged by Iraqi police. An Iraqi policeman was shot dead, but the undercover soldiers were overpowered and held in an Iraqi jail.

However, a major British Army operation then commenced to break the men out of prison. The operation involved the perimeter wall of the jail being destroyed by a British tank. During the assault, British forces came under sustained attacks from local people using petrol bombs and rocks. Nevertheless, both British covert operatives were successfully recovered.

Many commentators have noted the similarity between the activities of British forces in Iraq in recent years with British actions in Ireland over the past three decades.

Speaking last September after the British government's controversial decision not to establish a public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, former secretary of state Paul Murphy alluded to the similar activities.

During a BBC interview, Mr Murphy commented: “Many of the operational techniques that would be discussed in the inquiry would be used currently in the war against terror."

Mr Murphy subsequently left the Northern Ireland Office in May and became chairperson of the British government's intelligence and security committee.

It has also been widely reported that Brigadier Gordon Kerr is now stationed with British forces in Iraq. Brigadier Kerr played a key role in the activities of covert British activities in the North as the commanding officer of the Force Research Unit/Joint Services Group.

Referring to the recent actions of British forces, Paul O'Connor said: “It is not at all suprising and is in fact for many people reminscent of the activities of the SAS here when they engaged in shoot-to-kill missions.”

“Distressing as it is to see the human rights violations repeated in Iraq, it is equally distressing to see the media follow sheepishly behind the MOD line, so you have broadcasters like the BBC reporting a number of highly contested aspects of this affair as established fact," Mr O'Connor said.

“We have the situation where all British soldiers in Iraq are keenly aware that in their ranks were convicted murderers – Fisher and Wright – one of whom had since been promoted," Mr O'Connor added.

A fortnight ago, the PFC organised a meeting in London addressed by lawyer Phil Shiner who is representing more than 50 families of Iraqi citizens killed by British forces. Mr Shiner outlined systematic abuse – up to and including murder – practised by British soldiers in Iraq, specifically mentioning the ordering of prisoners to cut off the fingers of other prisoners.

Mr O'Connor said: “We have to break this cycle of abuse."

British troops in pitched battle in Basra

British “Pseudo-Gang” Terrorists Exposed in Basra

Belfast, Basra, Baghdad… new labours for a new American century?

Similarities Between Iraq and Northern Ireland

‘Getting Away With Murder – From the Bogside to Basra’


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