Gordon Brown flew into Northern Ireland today for crisis talks with security and political chiefs amid widening public disgust over the Massereene Army base murders.
Mr Brown arrived at the base where on Saturday night two soldiers were assassinated by Real IRA gunmen and another four men, including two pizza delivery men, were seriously injured.
They were today named as Sapper Mark Quinsey (23), from Birmingham, and Sapper Cengiz Azimkar (21), from Wood Green, north London, both of 38 Engineer Regiment. They were killed outside the barracks in Antrim on Saturday night, hours before they were due to fly to Afghanistan.
Two other servicemen and two pizza deliverymen — one named as 19-year-old local Anthony Watson and the other a 32-year-old Polish man — were seriously injured in the attack which sent shockwaves through the province’s peace process.
The dead soldiers from 38 Engineer Regiment were wearing desert fatigues and taking delivery of pizzas before leaving for Afghanistan. They will be named today.
At one stage the killers stood over their victims and fired a second volley. Security chiefs believe the gunmen were prepared to murder all six in front of the main gates of the barracks.
The Real IRA, which last night claimed responsibility and branded the pizza deliverymen as British “collaborators”, is the same organisation that killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, in the bombing of Omagh in August 1998. A massive manhunt for the killers was under way today.
The Prime Minister arrived just after eight this morning amid tight security. Along with Secretary of State Shaun Woodward, he was due to meet the Chief Constable, senior Army personnel and political leaders to deliver the message that the peace process would not be derailed by the weekend attacks.
Mr Woodward said: “This is really a moment where we have to decide how we secure our future. If people come forward, there's no question ... people will go to jail for a very long time.”
Mr Brown was to hold talks with Mr Woodward and security minister Paul Goggins throughout the day about Saturday night’s attack and also to discuss security at Army bases with Brigadier George Norton — the most senior soldier in the Northern Ireland.
It is believed that security at Army stations across the province has been stepped up following the murders.
The Prime Minister branded the attack “evil”, and said no murder would derail the peace process.
“I think the whole country is shocked and outraged at the evil and cowardly attacks on soldiers serving their country. We will do everything in our power to make sure that Northern Ireland is safe and secure and I assure you we will bring these murderers to justice,” he said yesterday
Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has warned the people of Northern Ireland to be vigilant with the threat of further dissident republican attacks heightened. Sir Hugh is set to meet Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy on Thursday to discuss cross-border strategies to tackle the dissidents.
Sir Hugh said Saturday night’s shooting was a “brutal and cowardly attack” and appealed for anyone “who knows where these cowards are holed up to come forward so that Northern Ireland can move on in the way it is determined to do.”
Sinn Fein joined other parties in calling for the culprits’ arrest after Saturday’s shooting,.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a former IRA leader in Londonderry, demanded the dissidents call off their campaign.
He said: “I was a member of the IRA, but that war is over now.”
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams added that the perpetrators had no support and he urged party members to help the police investigation.
The MP said: “(The) attack was an attack on the peace process. It was wrong and counter-productive.”
The Real IRA “South Antrim Unit” claimed responsibility in a phone call to the Sunday Tribune newspaper in Dublin.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted the killings would not disrupt the peace process.
However, the Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Mr McGuinness have delayed a planned visit to the United States which was due to end next Tuesday with a St Patrick’s Day meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.
Police are examining a Vauxhall Cavalier they believe may have been used by the gunmen.The vehicle was abandoned in the Ranaghan Lane area of nearby Randalstown late on Saturday.
This article is from The Belfast Telegraph