Soldier shot dead by IRA sniper

A soldier was shot dead by a sniper in South Armagh last night as the IRA continued its escalation of violence in Northern Ireland.

He was hit in the back by a single high-velocity bullet as he checked a car at a permanent vehicle checkpoint in Bessbrook, a village which houses one of the main British Army bases in the area.

A woman in the car was injured. She was taken to Daisy Hill hospital in Newry, suffering from lacerations to her head from flying glass. Two other people were treated for shock.

The soldier's death will increase fears that Northern Ireland is sliding back towards full-scale violence in the political vacuum before the next general election. The most immediate concern is that loyalist groups will now break their already strained ceasefire.

The shooting is the latest in a series of attacks as the IRA has steadily cranked up its campaign of violence. The fact that a soldier was killed may put paid to reports that the terrorists were engaged in a "phoney war" aimed at demonstrating their violent capabilities rather than actually taking life.

The soldier was the second to die since the ending of the IRA ceasefire a year ago last weekend. The first military fatality came last October when Warrant Officer James Bradwell died in an IRA bomb attack at the Army headquarters at Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Up to now, South Armagh, which is regarded as an IRA stronghold, had played no part in the renewed campaign. This attack will therefore be seen as an ominous sign that the IRA is gradually re-activating all its units. The likelihood of attacks in Britain is also regarded as high.

The use of what was clearly a high-powered rifle will confirm County Armagh's reputation as one of the most dangerous areas for the security forces. It also appears to confirm that they have yet to develop effective counters to the lethal activities of IRA snipers in the region.

The attack was condemned by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, as "a coward's attack which pointed up the cynical contrast between the words of peace and the crimes of murder." John Major said "the total hypocrisy of Sinn Fein's talk of peace is yet again fully exposed".

The MP for the constituency, the SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon, said: "Given the level of violence in recent weeks it was inevitable that lives would be lost. A man's life was taken in a cold pre-meditated way."

The shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Marjorie Mowlam, said: "This is a sad, sad day in the efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. I plead with the loyalist paramilitaries not to plunge the people of Northern Ireland into a downward spiral of violence."

Earlier, a high-powered assault rifle was found in a nationalist housing estate in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Fisk in Ireland, page 18

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen