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NI riots leave 25 injured

Republicans claim Britain has been too slow to dismantle its military presence  

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- At least 21 police officers and three soldiers have been injured during riots at two army observation posts and a police station in Northern Ireland.

Two policemen, with head injuries, and a soldier, who suffered serious burns, were taken to hospital following the trouble in South Armagh on Sunday night.

The protests came during a day of violence on Sunday during which an eight-year-old girl was also injured in violent scenes in Belfast.

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In South Armagh, a crowd of more than 100 protesters attacked the Creevekeeran watchtower with iron bars, petrol bombs, bottles and fireworks.

Nine police officers were injured when they tried to repel the crowds from cutting their way through perimeter fencing.

Police said it appeared the crowds were then taken by bus and car to the neighbouring Drummakavall watchtower where they launched a similar attack, injuring 10 officers.

Next the mob moved on and attacked the Crossmaglen police station breaching the main entrance and attacking police and military personnel inside with petrol bombs and other missiles. Two military dogs were also hurt.

"At least 21 police officers have been injured following violent attacks by protesters at two watchtowers and a Crossmaglen police station in South Armagh," a Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman told the UK Press Association.

He added: "From the onset it is clear this was a well-orchestrated protest that was never intended to be peaceful.

"The number of police injuries is testament to the fact that violence was the only intention of those involved -- violence for which they came obviously well prepared."

But on Monday, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, the Northern Ireland Assembly member for Newry and Armagh, rejected claims that republicans had orchestrated the protests.

He told PA: "They didn't go along armed with anything. They met with a violent reaction at the second outpost they went to and then the protest turned very ugly at Crossmaglen police station as a response to that."

Britain agreed to reduce its military presence in Northern Ireland after the IRA started decommissioning weapons under the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

For decades the scaffolding watchtowers, bristling with high tech cameras, antennae and razor wire, served as the Army's eyes and ears.

In October a number of observation posts were dismantled as the British government moved quickly to deliver a positive response to the IRA initiative.

Work began immediately on the demolition of two mountaintop lookout posts in Camlough in South Armagh.

In a separate incident on Sunday, an eight-year-old girl suffered cuts to her face when the car she was travelling in was attacked by rioters in the north of the city, a police spokesman said.

Six petrol bombs were also thrown onto the M2 motorway.

The disturbances were near an area where Roman Catholic girls ran a gauntlet of hatred to go to the Holy Cross primary school in a Protestant neighbourhood.


• 19 police hurt in N.Irish protest
December 9, 2001
• UK begins pullback in N. Ireland
October 24, 2001
• IRA statement on decommissioning arms
October 23, 2001
• Crisis talks to heal N. Irish rift
October 19, 2001
• Reid faces tough N. Irish decision
October 20, 2001
• IRA decommissioning welcomed
October 23, 2001
• Unionists quit N.Ireland assembly
October 18, 2001

• Police Service of Northern Ireland Home Page
• Northern Ireland Assembly
• Good Friday Agreement

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