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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Major Blames IRA in Soldier's Death

BELFAST, Ireland -- British Prime Minister John Major vowed he would not give in to terrorism Thursday after a suspected IRA sniper killed a soldier and brought Northern Ireland back to the brink of sectarian war.


Major pledged to track down the guilty and punish the "murderous efforts" of the Irish Republican Army, which he blamed for the killing of a 23-year-old British soldier at the southern village of Bessbrook on Wednesday night.


Gerry Adams, president of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, said in a brief statement the shooting was "a tragic event which re-emphasizes the need for all of us to redouble our efforts to rebuild the peace process."


Adams' words were directed at Major's refusal to talk to or negotiate with Sinn Fein until the IRA calls a permanent end to its 28-year war to end British rule of Northern Ireland and unite it with the Ireland.


But British and Irish officials accused him of hypocrisy by expressing regret for an action they blamed on his IRA supporters, who share Sinn Fein's goal of ending British rule.


Major, staring defeat in the face at elections he must hold by May, vowed there would be no change to Britain's policy of refusing to talk to Sinn Fein or inviting it to peace talks until the IRA called a permanent halt to its 28-year guerrilla war.


In response to Wednesday's shooting, Major said, "Let me make two promises. ... There will be no hiding place for the culprits -- none at all -- and I will not be deflected from the real search for a lasting settlement and peace in Northern Ireland."


Pro-British politicians believe the IRA campaign, which began when the guerrillas ended a 17-month ceasefire one year ago, is aimed at provoking revenge attacks by their pro-British loyalist foes to make Northern Ireland ungovernable.


They fear that the IRA is hoping to create mayhem so that whichever government takes over after the British election is forced to invite Sinn Fein to negotiations without conditions.


There was no word from the loyalists' umbrella organization, the Combined Loyalist Military Command, or CLMC, on its next step.


Loyalist guerrillas killed hundreds of members of the Catholic community, from which the IRA draws support, to avenge attacks by the IRA in a 28-year war that killed 3,200.