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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
Soldiers transferred during probe
Castlereagh
There is an investigation into the document disappearance

A number of soldiers have been transferred pending the outcome of a probe into a security breach at the Castlereagh complex, the Army has said.

On Wednesday, the Northern Ireland security minister confirmed that a document had disappeared from a room at the Belfast police headquarters.

Ian Pearson said he had confirmed with senior police officers that there were no indications the material had fallen into the hands of paramilitaries.

It has been alleged the missing document contains the names and details of hundreds of terrorist suspects.

The Press Association reported that 28 members of the Royal Irish Regiment have been withdrawn from sensitive security duties in connection with the investigation into the missing document.

Mr Pearson said: "There is an ongoing police investigation into the disappearance of a document from a room in the Castlereagh complex.

Pending the outcome of the PSNI investigation, a number of military personnel have been transferred to alternative duties
Army spokesman

"I have confirmed with senior officers in the PSNI that there are no indications that material has fallen into the hands of paramilitaries.

On Wednesday, an Army spokesman said: "The Army regards any breach of internal security with the utmost concern and has been co-operating fully with the PSNI in its ongoing investigation at the Castlereagh complex.

"The Army maintains stringent procedures for the handling of documentation and is taking very seriously the fact that a document is currently unaccounted for.

"As the security minister said today, there is no indication that any material has fallen into the hands of paramilitaries.

"Meanwhile, pending the outcome of the PSNI investigation, a number of military personnel have been transferred to alternative duties."

Speaking after a meeting with Mr Pearson, Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said no-one had yet been informed that their details were missing.

"I believe we are sitting on a potential scandal," he said. "I believe that the British are trying to suppress this story. It has only emerged through leaks."

'Released without charge'

The Press Association, quoting an unnamed source, said the soldiers had been withdrawn from security duties at Castlereagh and at watchtowers in nationalist areas, such as Divis Tower in west Belfast.

They have been transferred to Palace Barracks in Holywood, County Down, according to the report.

It is not known exactly when the document went missing.

The police said it would be improper to comment on an ongoing investigation.

On 12 July, a person being questioned about the incident at Castlereagh was released without charge.

Two years ago, an officer was assaulted and sensitive documents stolen during a raid at Special Branch offices in the Castlereagh police complex on 17 March 2002.

Since then, security has been enhanced.

One of the main police centres for the interrogation of terrorist suspects was located at Castlereagh.

It closed at the end of 1999.


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Mervyn Jess:
"It has been alleged the missing document contains the names and details of hundreds of terrorist suspects"



SEE ALSO:
Security probe at Castlereagh
12 Jul 04  |  Northern Ireland


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