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8 Guerrillas and Bystander Die in Ulster Battle

May 09, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Eight Irish nationalist guerrillas and one bystander caught in cross-fire were killed Friday during a gun battle at a village police station where elite security forces, apparently acting on a tip, had lain in wait for an attack.

Two policemen and a soldier were slightly injured, police said. Witnesses said a second civilian was critically wounded.

Residents in the village of Loughgall 11 miles from the border with the Irish Republic reported a "huge explosion" and then a prolonged exchange of gunfire as the attackers, described as members of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, battled with security forces.

Security sources said local police apparently had been tipped off to the attack, 30 miles southwest of Belfast, and elite units were moved into the station to replace local officers.

The units, apparently including commandos from Britain's Special Air Service, waited for the guerrillas who rammed the station gates with an earth mover and set off explosives, heavily damaging the station and destroying one wall at 7:20 p.m. while it was still daylight, security sources said.

40 Men in Combat Gear

Residents said about 40 men in combat gear converged on the attackers from hiding places outside the station.

Police said eight attackers and one civilian believed to be an "innocent" caught in the crossfire, were killed, but "there were no security force fatalities."

The security sources said the attackers placed explosives packed into beer kegs into the shovel of the earth mover, then rammed the gates, with up to three gunmen "riding shotgun" on the earth mover so they could rake the station with gunfire, a tactic the IRA has previously used. Security sources said other gunmen, emerging from a van, also attacked the station. It was not immediately known if any of the attackers escaped.

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