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Killing Imperils Irish Peace Process; 2 Held

November 11, 1994|From Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Police arrested two Irish Republican Army suspects Thursday after gunmen killed a postman in a botched robbery, sending shock waves through Northern Ireland's fragile peace process.

The killing was the first in the British-ruled province to be linked to the IRA since it announced a cease-fire in August, but the group denied breaking its pledge.

Ireland's justice minister, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, rescinded plans to release jailed IRA prisoners early. The first two inmates would have been released today.

In a statement to Belfast media, the IRA said its cease-fire meant "a complete cessation of military operations. All our units were instructed accordingly. This position has not changed."

But the killing of Frank Kerr, a 54-year-old Catholic, confirmed to the British and Irish governments that the IRA-Sinn Fein movement could not control all its activists.

Geoghegan-Quinn said police intelligence confirmed that at least one well-known IRA member was involved in the attack at the post office in Newry, 30 miles south of Belfast near the Irish border.

"So therefore, of course, the position is all changed," she said.

Before the truce, the IRA had robbed so many post offices, the distribution point for welfare payments, that some offices were closed.

In the latest incident, three gunmen drove into Newry's new central post office Thursday in a van painted like a British postal vehicle. They tied up several employees at gunpoint.

Kerr tried to resist and was shot in the head and back, police and witnesses said.

The trio was unable to steal any money and escaped in a hijacked post office van. Police arrested two men near the van after it was abandoned in Meigh, a village southwest of Newry. Army units combed the area by helicopter in search of the third suspect.

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