Isis missile strike injures two British SAS soldiers fighting in Syria against Assad government forces

The men were fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces in two towns east of the River Euphrates

The men were fighting with anti-government Syrian Democratic Forces (who are Kurdish based) in two towns east of the river Euphrates DELIL SULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Two SAS soldiers seriously injured in Syria were hit as Islamic State militants counterattacked in one of their last two strongholds.

The two men were embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces, Britain and America’s local allies in eastern Syria, as they attacked the Isis-held town of al-Shaafa.

A local fighter, a Kurd from the YPG militia, which dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces, was killed when an Isis unit fired what local commanders said was a heat-seeking missile at the group on Saturday morning.

One SAS soldier received a serious injury to his throat, while the other suffered lesser injuries. Both were taken to a field hospital at the nearby al-Omar oilfield and flown by helicopter to an unnamed US-run military base for hospital treatment.

The Times understands that neither Briton is in a critical condition and both are expected to survive. The Ministry of Defence would not discuss their condition, saying that it did not comment on special forces operations. Neither man has been named.

The two men are among several hundred members of British, American, French and other western special forces fighting alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria against the remnants of Isis. The militants are surrounded in two towns east of the River Euphrates in Deir Ezzor province, al-Shaafa and al-Susah. Al-Shaafa has been the scene of intense fighting for a week, and inroads have been made against Isis, with up to half the town seized, according to local journalists.

Kamiran Sadoun, a Syrian Kurdish journalist who was in the area at the time, said that there had been five to seven SAS soldiers on patrol with SDF fighters when the clash happened. He said that he had spoken to wounded SDF soldiers at the al-Omar field hospital.“They told us they were attacked — they shot at the Isis fighters then they fired back with a thermal missile,” he told The Times. He said that besides the fighter who was killed, two more were injured.

There have been heavy coalition air strikes, including one on Friday that was said to have killed 11 civilians, among them a Russian woman and her child. Thousands more civilians have fled the area.

The death of the Kurdish fighter and the two Britons’ injuries will be used to highlight a clash between Britain and America over plans for the region. Last month President Trump announced that he would withdraw all 2,000 American troops operating in Syria. The move, contradicting a policy he announced last summer to keep American troops in Syria to ensure Isis remained defeated and to maintain a bulwark against Iranian influence, prompted fierce criticism across the West and was followed by James Mattis, US defence secretary, announcing his resignation. British politicians argued that Isis was “not yet defeated” and Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, said that it was necessary to “keep a foot on the throat”.

No timetable for the withdrawal has been given, although Mr Trump’s initial demand that it be within 30 days has been discounted.

A senior British defence source said yesterday: “This attack goes to show that the fight against Daesh is by no means over. There’s a question now over whether Daesh are ramping up their operations ahead of the US troop withdrawal to ‘prove’ that they drove American forces out. It could be similar to what the Taliban tried to do in Helmand in Afghanistan.”

With many thanks to: The Times/ The Sunday Times for the original story

Guildford Four’s Paddy Armstrong in plea to pub bomb coroner

Paddy Armstrong (as he was then) was wrongly convicted in 1975

One of the Guildford Four, Paddy Armstrong, has said a coroner could end the “secrecy” over pub bombings that killed five people in 1974.

INNOCENT

Paddy Armstrong (as he is today) and today also happens to be Paddy’s 74th birthday. Breathla Shona dhuit Paddy and many happy returns

A pre-inquest review is being held to look at resuming a full inquest, after original proceedings never concluded.

A further 65 people were injured when the IRA blew up two pubs in Guildford.

Mr Armstrong said he would be there on behalf of the wrongly-convicted Four. He said they were kept in jail for 15 years and still wanted to know why.

Soldiers Ann Hamilton, 19, Caroline Slater, 18, William Forsyth, 18, and John Hunter, 17, died following the first blast at the Horse and Groom on 5 October, with plasterer Paul Craig, 21.

A four-man IRA unit known as the “Balcombe Street gang” claimed responsibility in 1976 but were not charged.

Over the years it has been disputed how many members were in the unit – a court transcript suggested up to 20.

The case of the Guildford Four became known as one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice.

Five died and 65 we’re injured in the blasts at the Horse & Groom and Seven Stars

“I want to know why I was in prison for 15 years when those who did it were never charged with it,” Mr Armstrong, 68, said.

“We had been in prison a year when the Balcombe Street gang admitted it and said innocent people were in jail… What are they hiding?”

He said he believed an inquiry by Surrey coroner Richard Travers “might get some answers”.

The Guildford Four

The Four released in 1989 after serving 15 years we’re greeted by family and supporters such as Gerry Conlon’s sisters

5 October 1974 – IRA bombs explode in two pubs in Guildford, Surrey, killing five people and injuring scores more. Guildford was known as a “garrison town”, with several barracks nearby, at Stoughton and Pirbright and Aldershot in Hampshire, and a night-life that was popular with the 6,000 military personnel in the area

22 October 1975 – Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson – the Guildford Four – jailed for life at the Old Bailey
19 October 1989 – After years of campaigning, the Court of Appeal quashes the convictions, ruling them as unsafe, and releases them

9 February 2005 – Prime Minister Tony Blair formally apologises to the Guildford Four for the miscarriage of justice they suffered
Mr Armstrong’s comments coincided with a decision that a file thought to contain evidence from former police chief Lord Peter Imbert should remain closed at The National Archives.

The file contains evidence given on 7 June 1993 – the day Lord Imbert, then Sir Peter, gave an account of how the Balcombe Street admissions were dealt with to former judge Sir John May during a five-year inquiry.

Several hundred files from Sir John’s inquiry remain closed at Kew – Mr Armstrong has repeatedly made calls for their release.

Surrey Police will assess the material it holds on the bombings. But now it has emerged the British Police Force we’re lying once again to the innocent family’s and now it emerges all material that was held by British Police has been destroyed

Government reasons for keeping the latest file closed include a public interest in “ensuring police are able to carry out any further investigations”, and that it also contains information relevant to investigations into “current Irish Republican Terrorism activities”.

Mr Armstrong branded the reasons “ridiculous” and criticised the “secrecy” of Sir John’s inquiry, part of which was held in private.

“Why are they not showing any of it?” he asked. “There must be something in it.”

The Imbert Files

Lord Peter Imbert died last year at the at the age of 84

On 7 June 1993, former Surrey and Met police chief Sir Peter Imbert gave evidence to the John May inquiry in a private hearing.

A public transcript has been viewable since 1994, but three other files containing evidence from that day are to stay closed.

The public transcript showed the inquiry asked about Imbert’s interviews with the Guildford Four and scientific research that linked the Guildford and Woolwich bombs with other explosions after the Guildford Four had been arrested.

The bulk of the hearing looked at what police did after the Balcombe Street gang admitted bombing Guildford and a pub in Woolwich.

Imbert said the gang should have been charged over both Guildford and Woolwich but this did not happen. He also said police doubted the “veracity” of their accounts.

In a statement, Surrey Police said the force began work in 2017 to identify, preserve and schedule material it held on the pub bombings.

“The case is not being re-investigated or made subject to a formal review at this time, however, once all the material held has been scheduled, an assessment will be carried out to consider whether there are any viable investigative opportunities,” it said.

“If any potential opportunities are identified, a comprehensive review would then be necessary.”

It said the force “neither requests nor opposes the resumption of inquests”.

KRW Law, representing the family of victim Ann Hamilton and survivor Yvonne Tagg, applied to resume the inquest after the BBC obtained papers about the case.

Mr Armstrong, who flew from Dublin to Surrey for the pre-inquest review, said it was “an honour” to be there for the Guildford Four, two of whom – Carole Richardson and Gerry Conlon – have died. Paul Hill now lives in the US.

With many thanks to: BBC England and Tanya Gupta 

More on this story :                   The Maguire Seven: ‘A great British injustice’

19 November 2018
‘Secrets’ over Patrick ‘Guiseppe’ Conlon’s pub bomb prison death
13 March 2018
Guildford pub bombs: Police ‘threatened’ man over evidence
23 January 2018
Guildford pub bombings: IRA blast pre-inquest hearings announced
8 November 2017
Guildford pub bombings: ‘May be grounds to resume’ inquests
4 August 2017
Guildford Four: Gerry Conlon’s sister calls for files to be released
27 October 2016
Related Internet links
Coroner services

‘The story of what British so-called justice has done to an entire family’

The shameful story of the Maguire family doesn’t need the hard sell the BBC gives it

56-year-old artist Patrick Maguire: Prison killed the child he once was

If you merely presented the facts behind the interrogation, intimidation and wrongful conviction of the family members and their friend, known together as the Maguire Seven, and set it all out in entirely dispassionate terms, it would still make the world shake with rage.

Stephen Nolan’s new documentary on the subject, A Great British Injustice: The Maguire Story (BBC One, Sunday, 9pm), doesn’t leave anything to chance, though.

“This is the story of what British justice has done to an entire family,” he begins. “And at the heart of this story is what it has done to a 13-year-old-child who, to this very day, is destroyed as a result of it.”

So shameful is this period in British history – when the bogus confessions of Gerard Conlon and Paul Hill, themselves drawn under brutal police duress, implicated and punished an innocent family – that even the stoicism of the BBC will bow to let Nolan describe Patrick Maguire, now a 56-year-old artist wrestling with his childhood torment, as “destroyed”.

Like Nolan’s recent documentary, The Shankill Bomb, which revisited an IRA atrocity and lingered, gratuitously, on its carnage, it can be hard to know what to make of giving such emotive material so hard a sell.

Does our distance from the event require new insistence to move us again? Or does In the Name of the Father’s film treatment, with its own fictitious revisions, demand to be countered with genuine and distraught testimony?

Either way, the facts remain harrowing. Annie Maguire, a religiously devout mother of four, was arrested in 1974 together with her husband, two young sons (a third son was released without charge), her brother, her brother-in-law Guiseppe Conlon, and a friend who just happened to be visiting.

All were eventually sentenced, for up to 14 years in prison, and the judge publicly rued the fact that capital punishment was no longer available. All were demonised. All were innocent.

The documentary is strongest in showing the surreal way in which the public could accept such a blatant lie, featuring a contemporary news report, sensationalist in its own way, that describes the sinister “Aunty Annie”: “a vital cog in the terrorist machine” who supposedly kept bomb-making equipment in her kitchen, “the way you might keep tins of corned beef”.

Forget the Reds under the Bed. In times of fear and paranoia, the Paddies in the Pantry could be an equally fevered and imagined menace.

But it had real and awful consequences. Beaten, intimidated and threatened with a gun by Surrey Police interrogators, its hammer clicking behind her skull, Anne recalls, “I could hear myself saying, ‘Jesus forgive them’.”

Her youngest son Patrick, just 13 at the time of his arrest, and similarly tortured, ultimately sentenced to four years in prison, was worse affected. Today Anne recalls worrying about the height of his apartment some years later, “because of the way his mind was working”.

Patrick, a conspicuously vulnerable figure for whom each recollection is raw and traumatising, is made the focus of the documentary, his jaw quivering and frequently dissolving into tears on the camera as he describes being put under suicide watch, or being beaten as a pariah in the streets.

With an interviewer of clear sensitivity, ethics and tact, you might feel that the programme had done everything to safeguard Patrick’s dignity. (His sister, Anne-Marie, whose childhood was also ruined, is just as wounded, and as frank, but seems in firmer command of how she shares her story.)

When Nolan asks Patrick’s brother Vincent, who never confessed to any wrongdoing, “You never broke?”, the way a gangster might be congratulated for keeping silent, Vincent immediately corrects him: “I had nothing to break for”.

That director Eamonn Devlin includes a post-interview hug between Nolan and Patrick, still brittle from his recollections, may not strike everyone as a very reassuring gesture either.

What prison killed, Patrick says, is the child he once was. But to call him “destroyed” seems both crass and exploitative, particularly when his new exhibition of artworks is called Out From the Darkness.

Patrick credits his survival to his mother, a woman so resilient that we hear her still praying for her tormentors. “I’ve just been lucky to have…” Patrick says, voice halting. “Lucky to have what?” says Nolan. “Her as my mum.”

With many thanks to: Peter Crawley and The Irish Times for the original story.

Follow this link to find out more: http://’The story of what British so-called justice has done to an entire family’

http://’The story of what British so-called justice has done to an entire family’

 

David Cameron gave MI5 agents ‘licence to kill’ in secret letter saying they should not be prosecuted for their war crimes, tribunal hears

MI5 agents authorised to participate in ‘murder, torture and sexual assault’

Yet no police officer or prosecutor has ever been told of their criminal activities

A secret letter from former prime minister David Cameron was made public

MI5 agents have secretly been given authorisation to participate in ‘murder, torture and sexual assault’ on British soil without fear of prosecution, a tribunal heard yesterday.

It emerged that the security service has been giving its informants and agents the freedom to commit ‘grave criminality’ for almost 30 years.

Yet no police officer or prosecutor has ever been told of their criminal activities, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in London heard.

A secret letter from former prime minister David Cameron was made public yesterday. This effectively gave MI5 agents a licence to kill, campaigners claim

The bombshell document emerged during a legal challenge by privacy campaigners, who want know what crimes have been committed in the name of MI5 since the 1990s and whether they were lawful.

In November 2012, Mr Cameron wrote to retired judge Sir Mark Waller acknowledging that there was a ‘long-standing’ secret policy to let security service agents break the law.

He instructed Sir Mark, who was at the time the Intelligence Services Commissioner, charged with overseeing the conduct of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, to have oversight of the policy.

The bombshell document emerged during a legal challenge by privacy campaigners, who want know what crimes have been committed in the name of MI5 since the 1990s and whether they were lawful

In November 2012, Mr Cameron wrote to retired judge Sir Mark Waller acknowledging that there was a ‘long-standing’ secret policy to let security service agents break the lawful
In November 2012, Mr Cameron wrote to retired judge Sir Mark Waller acknowledging that there was a ‘long-standing’ secret policy to let security service agents break the law
But the then-prime minister told him not to rule on whether it was legal, and said he need not express any views as to whether any cases should be referred to prosecutors.

Privacy campaigners claim the letter effectively handed MI5 agents a licence to break the law with immunity.

The timing of the letter is said to be highly significant as just two weeks later Mr Cameron admitted there was ‘state collusion’ in the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane.

Mr Finucane, who represented several high-profile Republicans, was shot dead in front of his family by loyalist gunmen. After his death it emerged that the loyalist paramilitary intelligence officer responsible for directing Ulster Defence Association attacks, Brian Nelson, was an agent controlled by the British Army’s ‘Force Research Unit’. No one has been prosecuted for the murder.

Javid: ‘MI5 will share more information with other organisations’

But the then-prime minister told him not to rule on whether it was legal, and said he need not express any views as to whether any cases should be referred to prosecutors +9
But the then-prime minister told him not to rule on whether it was legal, and said he need not express any views as to whether any cases should be referred to prosecutors

Privacy campaigners claim the letter effectively handed MI5 agents a licence to break the law with immunity

Mr Cameron wrote in the newly disclosed letter: ‘In the discharge of their function to protect national security, the security service has a long-standing policy for their agent handlers to agree to agents participating in crime, in circumstances where it is considered such involvement is necessary and proportionate in providing or maintaining access to intelligence that would allow the disruption of more serious crimes or threats to national security.’

The timing of the letter is said to be highly significant as just two weeks later Mr Cameron admitted there was ‘state collusion’ in the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane

Official MI5 guidance entitled ‘guidelines on the use of agents who participate in criminality’ was also made public yesterday for the first time. The policy states that an officer is ‘empowered’ to ‘authorise the use of an agent participating in crime’.

Ben Jaffey QC, representing an alliance of human rights groups, told the tribunal that Mr Cameron’s letter demonstrated that no police or prosecutor would ever hear about the cases involved.

Sir James Eadie QC, representing the intelligence agencies, the Home Office and the Foreign Office, told the tribunal that details of MI5’s conduct had to be kept secret and he asked that the hearing go into private to hear his reasons.

Reprieve director Maya Foa said: ‘We want to know if it’s government policy to let MI5 agents get away with serious crimes such as torture and murder.

‘While our intelligence agencies have an important role in keeping this country safe, it does not follow that agents can be permitted to break the law without limits.’

With many thanks to the: Daily Mail for the original story.

Trial of double murderer and ex-leading loyalist murderer ‘Winkie’ Rea is delayed on medical grounds

CHARGES: ‘Winkie Rea’

The non-jury trial of former leading loyalist Winston Rea has been postponed so he can undergo a series of medical tests.

Rea may have to undergo MRI or CT scans for a “long-standing illness”, Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday.

Defence counsel Arthur Harvey QC said the 67-year-old, of Springwell Crescent in Groomsport, Co Down, has also been examined by a neurological psychiatrist.

Rea was arraigned in October 2017 and pleaded not guilty to all 19 charges said to have been committed on dates between 1973 and 1996.

Included in the charges faced by ‘Winkie’ Rea are conspiring to murder Catholic men John Devine in July 1989 and John O’Hara in April 1991.

Mr Devine (37), was shot in front of his son in west Belfast while Mr O’Hara, a 41-year-old taxi driver, was lured to his murder in the south of the city.

Rea has also been charged with conspiring with others to threaten to kill LVF leader Billy Wright in August, 1996.

He also pleaded not guilty to firearms and other terror-related charges, including conspiring to possess firearms secured from the Ulster Resistance paramilitary group on dates between November, 1986 and October, 1994.

He is further charged with encouraging the murder of “persons working in shops selling An Phoblacht in republican and nationalist areas” between November, 1977 and October, 1994.

Rea, who was not in court for the proceedings, was due to stand trial on all charges early next month.

At yesterday’s review hearing, Mr Justice Colton heard that Rea had recently been examined by consultant psychiatrist Dr Helen Harbinson about his “cognitive ability” for the trial over a “long standing illness”.

Arthur Harvey QC said that three months ago Rea had a pacemaker device fitted to his heart which had “created a significant number of complications for the MRI and CT scans”.

He added that a medical practitioner had advised the defence that if the scans were to be carried out “eight doctors would have to be present for the removal of the heart pacemaker”.

The defence QC said Rea “will consent to any examination by experts appointed by the prosecution”.

Prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said he was mindful that “the families of multiple alleged victims will have been preparing themselves” ahead of next month’s trial, adding the provision of expert reports could cause “further delays for a considerable period”.

He urged Mr Justice Colton to fix a new date for the trial in the current court term.

Mr Justice Colton directed that a consultant neurological psychiatrist’s report on Rea be served on the prosecution within three weeks.

The judge said he was requesting the “full co-operation” of all defence medical experts in the case, urging them to comply with his directions which were “in the public interest of the trial process”.

The judge listed the trial November 12 this year.

With many thanks to the: BelfastTelegraph for the original story.

MoD challenging order to explain role in the north.

‘The public have a right to know the scope of the role of the British army in the North of Ireland complies with the terms of the peace agreement, Patten Commission and human rights standards’ – Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice.

THE Ministry of Defence (MoD) is set to challenge a ruling ordering it to release information about its current role in the north.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) asked MoD officials to provide the terms of reference for Operation Helvetic – the name given to the British Army’s continuing operation in the north – last year.

The first two Land Rover’s with the spare tyre on the front are the British Army. Along with the RUC/PSNI. They also include the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SSR) who also work closely with the SAS.

It came after military chiefs originally refused to hand over the majority of the information requested by the Committee on the Administration of Justice, claiming it is exempt under two sections of the Freedom of Information act.

MoD officials claimed some of the information could be withheld under Section 23 of the act – which refers to intelligence agencies and section 24 – which considers “national security”.

Section 23 covers information linked to agencies such as MI5, MI6 and Government Communications Headquarters (GHQ).

The Section 23 reference is believed to relate to MI5, which operates from a complex at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down.

In a recent decision notice the ICO said while some of the information is exempt other information relating to Operation Helvetic should be released.

Helvetic has been in place since July 2007 when Operation Banner officially ended.

The British Army continues to have a limited presence in the north and its bomb squad routinely responds to call-outs to deal with explosives.

Undercover units are also believed to have been deployed since the start of Operation Helvetic, including the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SSR), which is understood to work closely with the SAS.

Deputy director of the CAJ Daniel Holder said “the public have a right to know whether the scope of the role of the British Army in Northern Ireland complies with the terms of the peace agreement, Patten Commission and human rights standards.

Masked and armed with semi-automatic machine guns members of the bomb squad of the RUC/PSNI on foot patrol. In the occupied six counties of the North of Ireland.

“In the absence of transparency about the remit of the armed forces here, it’s not possible to tell if they are operating under PSNI direction or if there is instead some undeclared link to MI5 or the use of covert units, such as the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, that bypass the oversight arrangements,” he said.

An MoD spokesman said: “As an appeal is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story.

Follow this link to find out more concerning Operation Helvetic which replaced Operation Banner after 1998: http://www.irishnews.com/paywall/tsb/irishnews/irishnews/irishnews//news/northernirelandnews/2017/07/31/news/ten-years-since-end-of-operation-banner—and-start-of-helvetic-1096778/content.html

Praise for film shining light on Ballymurphy massacre

https://mobile.twitter.com/C4Dispatches/status/1038028578108198912/video/1

The film shown on Channel 4 on Saturday details the deaths of eleven people during the Ballymurphy Massacre.

 

There has been huge online reaction to the network premier of Massacre at Ballymurphy, the hard hitting documentary by award making film maker Callum Macrea, which screened on Channel 4 at the weekend.

The film, which was previously premiered at Féile an Phobail, was shown on Saturday, with a reconstruction and forensic examination of the events which started on August 9, 1971.

The documentary contains personal stories from relatives of the ten people shot dead in West Belfast by members of the Parachute regiment over three days of horrific violence. Paddy McCarthy, considered the 11th victim, died of a heart attack after soldiers fired shots over his head.

Among the dead a mother of eight Joan Connolly and Catholic priest, Fr Hugh Mullan who was shot dead going to the rescue of another victim.

The film details a shocking reenactment of the circumstances of Daniel Teggart’s death, shot fourteen times, with most of the bullets entered his back as he lay injured on the ground.

Following the programme Unionist Irish language activist Linda Ervine posted on Twitter that; “Before watching #MassacreAtBallymurphy I had no knowledge of what took place all those years ago. A terrible wrong has been done”.

Documentary maker Seán Murray said he hoped the screening of the film by Channel 4 “awakens the British public to the actions of their government during the conflict Well done to my friend Callum Macrae and all involved”.

Journalist and broadcast celebrity, Eamonn Holmes tweeted in support of film maker Callum Macrea saying; “Regardless of your Political persuasion or views on the Northern Irish Troubles, I would urge you to both hear what this man has to say and watch his film if you can. The Year is 1971 . The subject is the killing of civilians by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy West Belfast”.

Ian Katz, director of programmes at Channel 4 said; “Ashamed to say I knew nothing about the Ballymurphy massacre – the 1971 killing of 11 men and women by the British army in Belfast – till I saw Callum Macrae’s meticulous and shocking reconstruction of it”.

Scottish political activist Tommy Sheridan said it was, “Absolutely shocking”.

“I am ashamed that despite my limited knowledge of British Army atrocities in Northern Ireland I didn’t know about these state murders in Ballymurphy.

“No wonder the British Establishment have hidden such massacres from the general public for 47 years”, he added.

Former soldier Glenn Bradley said he had “met the Ballymurphy families some years ago and have supported their call for truth since

“I watched Massacre At Ballymurphy and my lasting thought is how docile and compliant were the media then”.

Belfast boxer Michael Conlon said; “Watching Ballymurphy Massacre and listening to what family’s have gone through and still going through, my eyes are filling up, very sad stories to poor innocent families”. Former An trim football captain Anto Finnegan said: ” This is not writing history, this is shining a light into that dark place those in power want to keep hidden.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story.