Army towers to be demolished

Security chiefs in Northern Ireland are preparing to pull down two Army observation towers along the border today, despite concerns over dissident republican activity.

Security chiefs in Northern Ireland are preparing to pull down two Army observation towers along the border today, despite concerns over dissident republican activity.

The two towers in South Armagh are due to be demolished as part of the British government’s efforts to move the peace process forward.

However, it comes amid an upsurge in dissident republican terrorist activity following an attack by the splinter Continuity IRA on two police officers in Armagh.

Two observation towers at Tievecrum, near Forkill, and Cloghoge, outside Newry, are due to be pulled down today in a possible taster for more demilitarisation moves once the IRA has clearly signalled an end to all paramilitary activity.

But as the British army prepared for the removal of the towers, they faced a last-minute plea from an Ulster Unionist councillor in Newry and Mourne, Danny Kennedy, to call a halt to their work.

Mr Kennedy said, following the coffee-jar bomb attack on police officers in Armagh: “There is an element at work in the area and the country as a whole, intent on causing death and destruction as recent incidents have proved.

“It would be sheer and utter folly to scale down security while there is a very real threat to peace from republican dissidents.”

In recent days, British army bomb disposal experts were forced to carry out a controlled explosion on a device in Belfast before the city’s marathon.

In the latest attack in Armagh, both police officers were shaken after the coffee-jar bomb struck their car as it travelled along the Monaghan Road.

Their windscreen was cracked but the device failed to detonate.

Sinn Féin has been pressing for significant acts of demilitarisation from the British government in a bid to boost confidence in the peace process.

Last week in the Irish and British governments’ joint declaration on the future of the peace process, ambitious plans for the scaling-down of the British army presence were unveiled.

However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has indicated that these would only be put into place once there is a clear declaration from the IRA that its days as a paramilitary organisation were over.

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