ON THIS DAY    4 December      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1983: IRA gunmen shot dead in SAS ambush

SAS soldiers involved in an undercover operation in Northern Ireland have shot dead two IRA gunmen and injured a third man who escaped.

He is being sought by police following the incident which took place a few miles from Coalisland, an area of County Tyrone known for IRA activity.

No soldiers are believed to have been injured during the attack.

The two men who died have been named as Brian Campbell and Colm McGirr.

Challenge

They were local men believed to be in their early twenties and who were known to be members of the Provisional IRA.

It is understood the SAS patrol, which has been operating in the area, came across the two IRA gunmen who were both armed.

One is understood to have been holding an Armalite rifle and the other a shotgun.

The soldiers challenged both men and when they did not respond the patrol opened fire, killing the two men.

A third man escaped in a car and the soldiers believe they shot the driver.

The vehicle was later found abandoned a few miles away with blood stains on the seats.

Brian Campbell was the brother of one of the 19 IRA men who are still on the run after he broke out of Belfast's Maize Prison in September.

It is not known if the SAS were lying in wait for the men but there has been increased covert activity by the security forces since the murder of three Protestant church elders in South Armagh.

Gunmen had opened fire on a church congregation at Darkley Church during a Sunday evening service last month killing the men and injuring seven others.

In Context
The Provisional IRA admitted Brian Campbell, aged 19, and Colm McGirr, aged 23, were its members.

It later transpired they were shot as they approached an IRA arms dump.

Many of their supporters said they had been victims of "shoot-to-kill" state aggression and an unjust murder.

Army regulations allow soldiers to open fire without warning if by not doing so they would increase the risk of death or injury to themselves or anyone else.

Five years later there was a similar ambush in Gibraltar in March 1988 when three unarmed members of the IRA were shot and killed by members of British special forces.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |