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?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot