A PSNI spokesperson for the British police force based in Armagh, Ireland, says that his colleagues are relieved to have escaped with their lives and they are furious that they had no prior warning of a high profile IRA checkpoint. It is still not clear if they were being set up from within for an ambush by disaffected sectarian colleagues.
The road block set up by heavily armed IRA volunteers in south Armagh, has also upset Loyalists, the SDLP and other British establishment politicians.
A British PSNI spokesperson said the patrol retreated as they witnessed IRA units stopping vehicles in the Meigh area near Newry on Friday evening. According to the BBC British Police have asked for anyone with information about the incident to get in touch. PSNI spin doctors also warned of a serious breakdown in police intelligence after being allowed by colleagues to drive into the republican roadblock without prior warning. There are a series of reports, of serious sectarian tensions within the PSNI itself, after the rout of their patrol without a single shot being fired.
Six masked volunteers carrying rifles were seen stopping vehicles on the outskirts of Meigh, in county Armagh on friday last. It is understood that a PSNI partol car had driven to within 100 meters of the checkpoint before turning back, in full view of more than 30 heavily armed volunteers, who were giving cover to the checkpoint with their Artillery, rocket launchers, armour piercing machine guns, along with ground to air missiles. Locals speak of snipers with Barret rifles, who had the patrol cars in their sights, however there were some civilians in the vicinity.
Many of the PSNI complained "We are getting vague breifings every single day that terrorists are highly active in and around Newry and South Armagh," he said. "But surely intelligence circles should be fit to warn us if illegal vehicle checkpoints are being carried out in our patrol area. "It doesn't bear thinking about what would have happened if the officers had driven straight into the trap." Unconfirmed reports speak of resignations on the basis that its getting too dangerous for the PSNI to operate in South Armagh and that some have refused to man PSNI checkpoints.
Others are believed to be furious with frustration at continous police intelligence failures, to locate heavy calibre tripod-mounted machine guns and the heavy artillery of the IRA, which is known to be in the hands of local Republicans. "We know they have DShK machine guns and if they are out in daylight doing vehicle checkpoints then they would probably feel confident enough to bring out the big stuff and take us on," he said. The Soviet made DShK's fires a 12.7mm round a minute and are capable of piercing armoured vehicles.
A statement by former republican Martin McGuinness, calling Irish freedom fighters "traitors" is believed to have sparked resignations within provisional Sinn Fein, created uproar within the Republican Movement in general and triggered a renewal of popular support for the fighters. Republicans point out the unmistakable contradiciton in the two statements below which has caused outrage all over Ireland.
Below is a small selection of recently acquired IRA weapons: