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Amnesty wants probe into British army 'death squad'

Amnesty International has called for an inquiry after former members of a secret British army unit said soldiers killed unarmed civilians in the IRA heartland of west Belfast.

The Military Reaction Force (MRF) carried out drive-by shootings of nationalists manning barricades to keep out loyalists 40 years ago, although there was no independent evidence any were paramilitaries, a BBC 'Panorama' documentary has claimed.

The elite soldiers believed military regulations prohibiting firing unless their lives were in immediate danger did not apply to them.

Amnesty Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said: "Today's revelations in 'Panorama' underline our call for the UK government to establish a new, over-arching mechanism to investigate human rights violations and abuses in Northern Ireland, whether carried out by paramilitary groups or the security forces.

"Victims and bereaved family members have a right to truth and justice.

"Such a process must focus not just on those who pulled the trigger, but also those in positions of authority who pulled the strings."


Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the revelations emphasised the need for a truth recovery process.

"The BBC programme shines a light on one aspect of Britain's dirty war in Ireland," he added.

"The existence of the Military Reaction Force and its activities have been known for many years but the programme contains new information and provides a fresh insight into the use by the British government of counter-gangs and secret military units."

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The former soldiers claimed the unit had saved many lives.

One told 'Panorama', broadcast last night: "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 reaction force had around 40 hand-picked men from across the British army who addressed each other by first name and dispensed with ranks and identification tags.

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