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1978: Four dead in post office shootings

VIDEO : Report on the aftermath of the shootings

A civilian has been killed in the crossfire between Provisional IRA bombers and British security forces at the Ballysillan post office depot in Belfast.

William Hanna was walking home with friend David Graham shortly after midnight. He was killed instantly when shooting broke out between the British army and IRA gunmen.

Three other men who died - William Mailey, Dennis Brown and James Mulvenna - were all from the Provisional IRA.

Army trap

It is believed the IRA men were challenged as they walked into a trap set up following recent bomb attacks at post office depots.

Four petrol bombs were found by the army after the shootings. Three of them were defused while the other was safely detonated.

Local residents, who say more and more soldiers have been seen around the premises in recent weeks, were moved out during the hour-long shooting and say more than 200 rounds were fired.

The Provisional IRA says its men were not armed. The army has not found any weapons at the scene but reports suggest accomplices carrying guns may have escaped.

Mr Graham, who was not hurt, described how shooting broke out when he and Mr Hanna were half way down the lane by the depot: "We hit the ground. The two of us rolled into the bushes and lay there."

Road blocks were immediately set up and a man was shot in the arm when he failed to stop. Police have since said he was not connected with the post office attack.

In Context
An article in Republican News and the recent post office attacks led to increased security at all major post office depots in the Belfast area.

The article warned Provisional IRA bombings would move from commercial premises to "a more selective campaign against prestige, communications and government targets".


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