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article imageOp-Ed: Former soldiers admit killing unarmed civilians in N.I. Troubles

By Eileen Kersey     Nov 21, 2013 in Crime
Belfast - The BBC's Panorama, a top-notch investigative program, revealed Thursday details of an undercover Military Reaction Force which operated in Northern Ireland in the early 70's, killing suspected terrorists and inevitably unarmed citizens.
The Panorama footage featured in this report was first shown more than a year ago. However this week the MRF is in the news again.
Thursday The Belfast Telegraph reports:
A secret Army "terror" unit set up to target the IRA in the early 1970s was responsible for shootings in which unarmed civilians were killed, it has been claimed.
Members of the force believed the usual rules of engagement did not apply to them and that they could kill in drive-by shootings.
The Telegraph said:
The elite soldiers believed military regulations prohibiting firing unless their lives were in immediate danger did not apply to them. One told the BBC's Panorama programme: "We were not there to act like an Army unit, we were there to act like a terror group. "We were there in a position to go after IRA and kill them when we found them."
The Historical Enquiries Team, HET, set up in 2005, is responsible for investigating 3,269 unsolved murders committed during the Northern Ireland Troubles. Thursday's Panorama included at least two members of the MRF, Military Reaction Force, that operated covertly in Northern Ireland in the early 70's.
The existence of the MRF was denied for years. These days it is accepted that the MRF operated in Northern Ireland using non-uniformed members of the armed forces. The men wore civilian garb and infiltrated communities by any means possible.
There are also allegations that they shot first and asked questions sometime never.
Two men who claim to have been part of the MRF were interviewed by Panorama. Both were disguised. Neither men claimed direct responsibility for killing any individual. Both however believed that the MRF was right to kill suspected IRA terrorists rather than apprehending them.
They believed their actions had saved lives, but tell that to the loved ones of innocent civilians who were shot. You also have to wonder if such behaviour alienated communities further and extended the life of the Troubles.
Murders were often assumed to be part of the sectarian violence fuelling more killing.
As the MRF patrolled city areas. in unmarked cars, they singled out suspected terrorists. In doing so many innocent civilians were shot. Some died but some lived to tell the tale.
Listening to the words of those shot and injured and the daughter of one man killed in error was shocking. More than 40 years later these people carry the mental and physical scars. Yet no person has ever been called to account.
The MRF was short-lived and disbanded as the MoD, Ministry of Defence, attempted to sweep its existence under the carpet.
A handful of the survivors shot by this force were interviewed by Panorama.
Men shot and injured as they said goodnight to friends at the corner of a street. All were tested by police, when they attended the hospital for treatment back in the 70's, but none of those interviewed tested positive for weapons handling.
Yet those members of the MRF interviewed by Panorama were not fazed by that news. They claimed that the force shot only when weapons were used by the terrorists first or were seen in their possession by the MRF.
They disregarded police evidence as flawed and not to be trusted in the 70's. Even so they accepted that some people who were unarmed were shot and killed.
Earlier BBC News reported that Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin had hinted that prosecutions dating back to the Troubles should end. However, Seamus Mallon, deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP party and former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, said "Anyone actively involved in shooting unarmed civilians during the Troubles must be prosecuted".
Will the British government allow justice to be served and call the killers to account?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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