Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Army attack 'brutal and cowardly'

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Woodward condemns soldier killing

The murder of two soldiers as they accepted a pizza delivery was an act of "extreme brutality", MPs have heard.

Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, were shot dead at Massereene Army base, Antrim.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told the House of Commons the attack, which the Real IRA have said they carried out, was an "attempt at mass murder".

"More than 60 shots were fired," Shaun Woodward said.

Four other people, including two pizza delivery men, were injured.

He said that the "so-called Real IRA claimed responsibility for this act of extreme brutality".

"Whatever self-styled name these murderers choose to use, the House will correctly recognise them as barbaric criminals, who are prepared to carry out an act of pre-meditated mass murder," he said.

Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey

"Callously murdering innocent people going about their daily business, they are simply brutal and cowardly killers."

Mr Woodward also told the MPs that the level of threat from dissident republicans had, last week, been raised by the security services from substantial to severe.

He said this was based on a threat which "has recently been higher than at any time in the last six years".

Since 2008, he said, dissident republicans mounted 18 attacks - 15 during 2008 and three in 2009.

Whatever self-styled name these murderers choose to use, the House will correctly recognise them as barbaric criminals, who are prepared to carry out an act of pre-meditated mass murder
Northern Ireland Secretary Sean Woodward

Police hunting the killers of the two young soldiers are examining CCTV footage from the area.

Detective Chief Superintendent Derek Williamson said "some of the events" had been caught on camera and that a car found about seven miles from the base was the getaway vehicle.

The green Vauxhall Cavalier TDZ 7309 was found in Randalstown and had been bought two weeks ago, he said.

The Army's bomb experts are examining the car as a precautionary measure and it will then be examined for clues by forensic officers.

"We have some information about its history, but we need to find out more about its movements on Saturday night and in the past two weeks," Det Ch Supt Williamson told a news conference at the barracks.

"We need to know where it's been, who was in it, and where they are now.

"This is an important line of enquiry and we need people to come forward."

The Army commander in Northern Ireland said the two men had been "magnificent individuals".

Brigadier George Norton said the men had been killed in a "callous and clinical" attack.

He rejected concerns that guards had not opened fire at the gunmen.

"Are you suggesting that people should have fired into a closely packed group, including my soldiers?" he told a press conference.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the base and met NI political leaders on Monday. He said the peace process was "unshakeable".

Are you suggesting that people should have fired into a closely packed group, including my soldiers?
Brigadier George Norton

"What I've seen this morning is the unity of the people of Northern Ireland, and the unity of the political parties," he said.

"That they are going to continue to work together and they want to send out a message to the world - as I do - that the political process will not and never be shaken.

"In fact, the political process is now unshakeable."

There has been condemnation of the attack from all the Northern Ireland political parties.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the murders were "an attack on the peace process" and Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson described the killings "a futile act and a terrible waste".

"The events of Saturday evening were a throwback to a previous era. We must never return to such terrible days," he said.

Four other people, including two pizza delivery men - Anthony Watson, 19, from Antrim and a Polish man in his 30s - were injured in Saturday's attack.

One of the delivery men is in a serious condition in hospital. It is understood the others are in a stable condition.

The rest of 38 Engineer Regiment has now left the base and gone to Afghanistan.

The two young soldiers were the first to be murdered in Northern Ireland in 12 years. Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was killed by an IRA sniper in 1997.

HOW THE ATTACKS UNFOLDED
Map: Massereene barracks attack
SATURDAY 7 MARCH:
1. Soldiers order pizza from delivery shop in Antrim. Two cars leave shop at about 2120 GMT
2. Four soldiers collect pizza from main gate at Massereene Barracks. As they do, two gunmen open fire from a nearby car. Two soldiers - Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21 - are killed, four people seriously injured including the pizza delivery men
3. Vauxhall Cavalier which police believe the gunmen to have used recovered in Ranaghan Road, nr Randalstown




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