No-one would have died on Bloody Sunday if the IRA had not tried to murder soldiers, an Army commander has said.
Soldiers shot 13 people dead in Derry on Bloody Sunday
Colonel Ted Loden was a major in charge of a Parachute Regiment unit that fired more than 100 shots and was in the Bogside area of Londonderry with his men during the main shootings.
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when 13 civilians were shot dead by British army soldiers during a civil rights march in Derry. A 14th person died later.
Colonel Loden told the inquiry on Tuesday he regretted all the deaths that day but insisted his men were involved in a heavy gun battle.
He said he clearly recalled hearing a
burst of incoming automatic gunfire at an early stage after he got out of an armoured vehicle in the nationalist Bogside area.
He said: "I became aware of a burst of automatic fire from a low velocity weapon.
If the IRA had not opened fire on my soldiers with murderous intent, no-one would have been killed. It is very important that this point is clear
"It seemed to come from the area of the Rossville Flats."
The colonel said that as soon as troops came under fire, the nature of the
operation changed and he and the soldiers got back into the vehicle and moved
into a position of cover.
"The next 10 minutes involved a heavy exchange of fire.
"There were a lot of rounds coming in and my soldiers were firing back."
Loss of life
Colonel Loden said he did not see any civilians armed with guns or bombs on Bloody
He said there was nothing about what his troops told him or their manner on the evening of Bloody Sunday that caused him to doubt the truthfulness of their accounts of engaging gunmen and bombers.
He said: "Nevertheless, as a human being, I found the loss of life upsetting and
thought it very regrettable that anyone had been killed.
"I want to stress, however, that 1 Para went to Londonderry to arrest rioters. If the IRA had not opened fire on my soldiers with murderous intent, no-one would have been killed. It is very important that this point is clear."
The inquiry, which usually sits at the Guildhall in Derry, is currently hearing the evidence from military witnesses and others in London because of concerns for their safety.
Lord Saville of Newdigate and the Commonwealth judges accompanying him on the Bloody Sunday inquiry began their work nearly four years ago.
They are not expected to report back until next year.
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry was established in 1998 by Prime Minister Tony Blair after a campaign by families of those killed and injured.
They felt that the Widgery Inquiry, held shortly after the shootings, did not find out the truth about what happened on Bloody Sunday.