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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 16:38 GMT
Last post sounds for watchtower
British army engineer at work dismantling the watchtower
Engineers dismantled the watchtower in the town square
The last remaining British army watchtower in south Armagh has been dismantled.

The guard post at Crossmaglen police station was removed as part of the government's normalisation plans.

Built in 1992, its aim was to protect soldiers and police officers at a time when security forces could only travel to the police station by helicopter.

Sinn Fein welcomed the move, but unionists criticised its timing, saying it was a sop to republicans.

The dismantling of the base in Crossmaglen is seen as highly symbolic, given the village's place at the heart of what was often referred during the Troubles as 'Bandit Country'.

For more than 30 years, soldiers and police officers based there were tasked with confronting some of the IRA's most deadly units.

We want to deliver policing in south Armagh in the same way that policing is being delivered anywhere in Northern Ireland
Bobby Hunniford
PSNI chief superintendent
Work began on Monday with the removal of a metal cage which protected the base from rocket attack.

The sangar was lifted from the tower by a crane and the rest of the structure was then dismantled.

The Army's presence at the Crossmaglen base has been reduced in recent months, and the site will now only be used as a police station.

The moves are part of the end of Operation Banner, the British army's support role for the police during the Troubles.

Crossmaglen Police Station, pictured in 1999
The guard post at Crossmaglen Police Station was built in 1992
It has been running for 35 years and is the longest operation in its history.

By 1 August, the Army's presence in Northern Ireland will be reduced to no more than 5,000.

Chief Superintendent Bobby Hunniford said the work in Crossmaglen was "a significant step as part of the ongoing normalisation process".

"The police are committed to delivering an effective service to the Newry and Mourne area and are already policing in the area without military support, and delivering a policing service using vehicles and beat patrols," he said.

"We want to work with the community and we want to deliver policing in south Armagh in the same way that policing is being delivered anywhere in Northern Ireland."

Watchtower being dismantled

Demolition begins on symbolic base
04 Sep 06 |  Northern Ireland
Troop withdrawal plan published
28 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Demilitarisation moves announced
01 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Demilitarisation plans reaction
01 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Watchtower demolition is halted
24 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland

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