Suspected Irish Republican Army (IRA) dissidents who opened fire on British soldiers and pizza delivery men outside an army base shot their victims again as they lay wounded on the ground,police said Sunday.
Two soldiers died and four other people,including two men delivering pizzas,remained hospitalized with serious wounds following Saturday nights attack at the entrance to Massereene army barracks in Antrim,west of Belfast.
It was the first killing of British soldiers in Northern Ireland since 1997. Its callousness,in targeting soldiers and civilians alike,appeared calculated to inflame community tensions and undermine Northern Irelands Catholic-Protestant administration just as its leaders prepare to promote their coalition in the United States.
Police Chief Superintendent Derek Williamson,who is leading the hunt for the killers,said a car carrying two men both armed with assault rifles opened fire on a group of four soldiers taking delivery of food from two Dominos Pizza drivers. He said it wasnt clear whether all six were hit at that point,but he said at least one gunman then got out of the attackers vehicle and shot the victims again at close range.
Williamson said the two dead men were army engineers in their early 20s who were about to be deployed to Afghanistan. Its clear from what we know at this stage that the terrorists not only wanted to kill soldiers who were there last night but also tried to kill those two pizza delivery men. That indicates to me the ruthlessness of this attack, Williamson said. Police found the attackers suspected getaway vehicle abandoned in the nearby town of Randalstown. No arrests were reported.
Politicians from both the British Protestant majority and Irish Catholic minority blamed IRA dissidents. Both sides vowed the attack would not undermine their 22-month-old coalition,the central accomplishment of a 1998 peace accord for this British territory following three decades of bloodshed.