Soldier on patrol shot by sniper

(First Edition)

A SOLDIER was shot and injured yesterday in the nationalist New Lodge Road area of Belfast while on foot patrol.

No one claimed immediate responsibility for the shooting in Spamount Street, but an RUC spokesman said the soldier's condition was not serious. Since the Shankill Road bombing by the IRA two weeks ago, extra troops have been on the streets to thwart tit-for-tat attacks.

Meanwhile, more than 50 people were evacuated from their homes early yesterday after an RUC station close to the Northern Ireland border came under a gun and bomb attack. A church and several buildings, including houses at Caledon, County Tyrone, were damaged but no one was hurt.

The RUC said the station, three miles from the border, was hit by a burst of gunfire at 5.20am and seconds later a loud explosion rocked the village. It is believed an IRA mortar bomb fired from a van parked near the base missed its target and landed in the grounds of the local Presbyterian church.

The bungled attack ends a seven-day lull in IRA violence following the murder of an RUC reserve constable who died three days after he was shot in Newry, County Down, last Sunday.

It also comes 24 hours after the IRA offered not to target loyalist paramilitaries if the UFF and UVF stopped killing nationalists - an offer turned down by the loyalist gangs.

The IRA mortar bomb which missed Caledon RUC base was a so-called 'barracks-buster' bomb using 200lb of home-made explosives. A number of similar devices have been fired over high perimeter walls into security bases causing widespread damage.

An Army bomb expert said local residents had a lucky escape as the blast shattered hundreds of windows, showering glass over dozens of people asleep in their beds. 'This was a particularly reckless attack,' he said. The RUC said the mortar bomb could easily have been a mass murder atrocity. Superintendent Basil Kerr said it was totally indiscriminate: 'It's a miracle a lot of people were not killed.'

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