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May 03, 2005

Brutality Claim Rocks PSNI

News About Ireland & The Irish

BT 05/03/05 Brutality Claims Rock PSNI
BT 05/03/05 Orde 'Was Target Of Bombers'
SM 05/03/05 Marathon Bomb Bid Blamed On Political Vacuum
BT 05/03/05 Plea For End To Attacks On Taxi Firms
BT 05/03/05 New Fears Of Loyalist Feud After Taxi Attack
SF 05/03/05 Sinn Féin - Leading The Way To The Future
BT 05/03/05 SF Can Top The Poll, Says Doherty
IO 05/03/05 SDLP Warns Of DUP 'Free Run At Agreement'
BT 05/03/05 Kilclooney's Rallying Cry
BT 05/03/05 Battle Over RIR
NL 05/03/05 Breakthrough Over Flag-Flying In Town
BB 05/03/05 Boy Injured As Clothes Catch Fire
BT 05/03/05 Help Bring Margaret Home, Plea
IN 05/03/05 Five 'Confess' To Murder Of Aid Worker
UT 05/03/05 TDs Head To Washington To Lobby For Immigration Bill
UT 05/03/05 Belfast Bar In Centre Of Legal Row


Brutality Claims Rock PSNI

By Geraldine Mulholland
03 May 2005

Police brutality claims - seemingly backed by video footage - have
prompted calls for the suspension of officers in Londonderry.

The allegations were made following an incident in Violet Street in
the Waterside early on Saturday morning.

The 3am disturbance - which led to a number of arrests - attracted
the attention of several residents of the street, one of whom recorded
some of the altercation between the PSNI and the young people, who
are all understood to be Protestant.

The Socialist Environmental Alliance (SEA) has had lengthy
discussions with the families of a number of those involved and they
have viewed a video tape of parts of the incident.

SEA candidate, Eamon McCann, said: "It is clear from the recording
that members of the PSNI behaved in an improper and totally
unacceptable way.

"The footage shows aggressive and belligerent behaviour by a
number of PSNI officers, and assaults on civilians.

"We are aware that some of those caught up in the incident are in the
process of consulting solicitors. In the meantime, pending a full
investigation, we call for the suspension of the PSNI officers shown
on the tape behaving improperly.

"Copies of the recording have been made available to media outlets,
and to solicitors. We understand that the solicitors concerned are
considering forwarding a copy of the recording to the office of the
Police Ombudsman.

"We are calling for the PSNI officers involved to be suspended
immediately and all charges against the young people dropped."

A police spokesperson said: "Anyone who has a complaint to make
about the actions of any police officer should contact the office of
the Police Ombudsman."


Orde 'Was Target Of Bombers'

By Debra Douglas and Andrea Clements
03 May 2005

Chief Constable Hugh Orde last night condemned the terrorists who
left an explosive device on the Belfast Marathon route in an apparent
bid to kill him.

Thousands of runners, including the police chief, had already set off
on the 26-mile course when they had to be diverted due to the
discovery of the live device at Gideon's Green, Newtownabbey - the
location of the second change-over for the relay.

Speaking last night, Mr Orde said the placing of the device on the
route was "reckless and cowardly".

He said: "The Belfast City Marathon is an impressive cross-
community event which attracts participants and spectators from
across Northern Ireland and further afield, with those involved
raising funds for many community organisations and charities.

"I commend the organisers and the police officers who, through swift
action, rendered this device harmless and allowed everybody to
enjoy the day with minimal disruption."

In a telephone warning to Belfast journalist Eamonn Mallie, an
anonymous male caller said volunteers under command had planted
the device and that the marathon was "just a frill on the six county

The caller then warned: "Tell Hugh Orde we will get him the next

Inspector Stevie Marshall, from Newtownabbey District Command
Unit, said that as the Chief Constable was mentioned in the warning,
it was possible he was the intended target.

He said the device was "a sophisticated and viable pipe bomb-type
device" which could have killed or maimed.

The bomb warning was made at 10.30am yesterday but at least 20
runners had already passed the potentially lethal device. The rest of
the runners were diverted through the Hazelbank area, adding an
additional several hundred metres to the route.

Inspector Marshall said he was relieved no-one was killed or hurt.

He added: "I think it beggars belief that this happened. People were
raising money for charity. They were there for a fun afternoon.

"This is the first time something like this has happened in respect of
the marathon and it is something unwanted.

"It caused a major disruption but I feel it did not cause the day to be
ruined entirely."

Duncan McCausland, Assistant Chief Constable for Belfast, said he
was outraged that so many lives had been put at risk.

"This reckless act could have led to serious injury or worse for the
sportsmen and women enjoying the Belfast Marathon," he said.

"Those responsible have shown their disregard for the lives of
Belfast residents and visitors alike."

Race director David Seaton said organisers acted quickly and
decided to lengthen the race rather than abandon it. He hit out at
those responsible for the disruption.

"I thought the days of bombs were over. This was a community event
and there was no reason why someone would want to disrupt it.

"The marathon is a vehicle for raising money for charity and I don't
know why someone would want to deny people that opportunity. No-
one is more disappointed than the organisers who have put in a lot
of work," he said.

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Tom Ekin added: "This was cowardice
of the highest order. To place the lives of hundreds of innocent
people at risk is totally contemptible.

"The Belfast Marathon brings together people from all over the
world, in the spirit of friendly competition.

"An attack of this nature only discredits and disgraces still further
those responsible for it."


Marathon Bomb Bid Blamed On Political Vacuum

By Dan McGinn, PA Ireland Political Editor

The political vacuum in Northern Ireland will be filled by people who
planted a pipe bomb device along the route of the Belfast marathon,
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams claimed today.

As he prepared for the last leg of campaigning in the General
Election, Mr Adams said he repudiated the planting of the device,
which a caller to a Belfast journalist yesterday claimed was intended
for Northern Ireland police chief Hugh Orde.

He called for more detail about the device.

Mr Adams said: “First of all, we repudiate that action.

“But the PSNI are always very anxious to point the finger all over the
place so let’s get some real information on all of this.

“Having said that, our focus and part of the reasons for the initiative
which I took (calling on the IRA to consider abandoning armed
struggle) is and was a concern that the peace process is on a
downward spiral.

“When you have a vacuum, a prolonged vacuum, then it will be filled
by people who do what they did on the route of the marathon and we
have to thwart that.”

Dissident republicans were being blamed for planting the viable pipe
bomb device which forced runners to take a different and extended
route yesterday.

Mr Orde, a keen marathon runner, was taking part in the race but
pulled up early due to injury.

Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Ekin also condemned those responsible,
claiming they had recklessly put a lot of people’s lives at risk.


Plea For End To Attacks On Taxi Firms

By Brian Hutton
03 May 2005

Calls were made today for an end to attacks on taxi firms in north
and west Belfast.

The Sunningdale Cabs depot, at Ballysillan Park, was targeted
sometime before 3.20am yesterday.

Flammable liquid had been poured through the roof of the building
before being set alight.

Although the fire didn't spread it caused some scorch damage to the
roof and the walls of the building.

Police are treating the incident as attempted arson and were
examining the scene yesterday morning.

"The motive for the attack is being investigated, " said a police

The attack follows a spate of incidents in the area earlier this year,
involving taxi firms in loyalist north and west Belfast.

In January, a number of shots were fired at the Sunningdale depot
and a driver working for the firm had his car burned out.

In an earlier incident, a number of taxis linked to Call A Cab, a firm
owned by former PUP man Jackie Mahood, were burnt.

The Crumlin Road-based firm was temporarily closed following the

At the time, Mr Mahood, who was shot in the head by the UVF four
years ago, accused the terror group of trying to put him out of

West Belfast UUP representative Chris McGimpsey said: "There's no
need for anybody to be attacking any taxi firms."

The proprietor of Sunningdale Cabs, Paul McAlinden, last night
declined to comment.

Just last month a Christian-based taxi service in the Shankill area
had to be closed down after a violent campaign of intimidation.

Pastor Jack McKee of the Church of the New Life Fellowship closed
down Liberty Taxis to protect the safety of the 22 people working for
the firm.


New Fears Of Loyalist Feud After Taxi Attack

By Brian Hutton
03 May 2005

Fears were last night voiced that an arson attack on a north Belfast
taxi firm could lead to fresh trouble in loyalist parts of north and west

The Sunningdale Cabs depot, at Ballysillan Park, was targeted
sometime before 3.20am yesterday morning.

Flammable liquid was poured through the roof, before being set

Although, the fire didn't spread, it caused some scorch damage.

Police are treating the incident as attempted arson and were
examining the scene yesterday morning.

"The motive for the attack is being investigated," said a police

The attack follows a spate of incidents in the area earlier this year,
involving rival Belfast taxi firms.

In January, a number of shots were fired at the Sunningdale depot
and a driver working for the firm had his car burnt out.

Just days earlier, a number of taxis linked to Call A Cab, a firm
owned by former PUP man Jackie Mahood, were burnt.

The Crumlin Road-based firm was temporarily closed.

At the time, Mr Mahood, who was shot in the head by the UVF four
years ago, accused the terror group of trying to put him out of

The violence followed tensions between the UVF and LVF in the
north of the city.

West Belfast UUP representative Chris McGimpsey said he was
concerned yesterday's attack may lead to more trouble.

"We all need to keep cool heads now. People need to calm down and
realise there's no future for any violence in Northern Ireland," he

"There's no need for anybody to be attacking any taxi firms. A taxi
war is the last thing we need."

The proprietor of Sunningdale Cabs, Paul McAlinden, last night
declined to comment.

Just last month a Christian taxi service in the Shankill area had to be
closed after violent intimidation.

Pastor Jack McKee, of the Church of the New Life Fellowship, closed
down Liberty Taxis to protect his workers.


Sinn Féin - Leading The Way To The Future

Published: 3 May, 2005

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP was joined today by party
colleagues Caitriona Runae, Alex Maskey and Gerry Kelly for the
party's final press conference of the Westminster election campaign.

Mr Adams said:

"There is an unprecedented opportunity to revive the peace process,
to get the Good Friday Agreement implemented and to get political
power back into local hands so that we can tackle water charges,
cuts in education and other essential services.

"This is a crucially important election. It is about the future -- the type
of Ireland the electorate want. It is about the peace process and its
success or failure. And it's about leadership.

"I believe the way forward that I have mapped out provides a real
opportunity to revive the peace process.

"So there is a need to take power back into local hands and working
together take the decisions which will determine the quality of life of
our families and neighbours in the time ahead.

"On May 5th I am asking you to seize the opportunity and vote Sinn
Féin." ENDS


SF Can Top The Poll, Says Doherty

By Chris Thornton
03 May 2005

Sinn Fein vice president Pat Doherty has predicted his party could
make up a 30,000-vote gap and top the poll on election day.

Mr Doherty, the party's head of elections, said a "strong nationalist
turnout on May 5 could see Sinn Féin become the largest political
party in the North in terms of vote share".

The DUP has repeatedly claimed Sinn Fein could get the most votes
in Northern Ireland in the General Election, but SDLP leader Mark
Durkan says that result would help the DUP claim the "Agreement is

Sinn Fein finished less than 15,000 votes behind the DUP in the 2003
Assembly election. The DUP got 177,470 votes across all
constituencies, while Sinn Fein got 162,758

But that was before Jeffrey Donaldson and Arlene Foster - who are
both candidates in this election - left the UUP. Their votes were
counted as UUP votes in that election.

In last year's European election, the DUP extended the gap over Sinn
Fein, with Jim Allister winning 175,761 votes to Bairbre De Brun's

Nevertheless, Mr Doherty said: "Having analysed the canvas returns
from all 18 constituencies our assessment is that Sinn Fein can
become the largest party in the North, in terms of popular support, at
this election."

He added: "A strong Sinn Féin mandate will also act as a reality
check for unionists who believe that they can turn back the clock,
that the days of domination and second class citizenship are over
and that the process of change is now irreversible."

Mr Durkan, meanwhile, said Thursday's contest is "a watershed

"The DUP and Sinn Fein are deliberately running quiet ground-level
campaigns," said the SDLP leader. "They would prefer a low turn-out
election which would give the extremes a better result."


SDLP Warns Of DUP 'Free Run At Agreement'
2005-05-03 11:40:02+01

Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley will get a free run at
Westminster to rewrite the Good Friday Agreement if Sinn Féin gets
the election result it is claiming to expect, a nationalist rival claimed

SDLP leader Mark Durkan, who was campaigning in Derry today with
former party leader John Hume, dismissed Sinn Féin claims that it
could become the largest party in the North in terms of the popular
vote in the Westminster election as an attempt by their party and the
DUP to inflate each other's votes.

In a reference to Sinn Féin's refusal to take its seats at Westminster,
he insisted: "People recognise a strengthened DUP in the House of
Commons, with little or no nationalist representation to counter it,
would be a disaster.

"If you go back to the flaws of the Sinn Féin and DUP deal last
December, it should not be forgotten that that deal involved the
British government bringing forward quite a number of legislative
changes to affect the workings of the Agreement.

"If Sinn Féin gets the election result they are talking about, the DUP
will have a free run in Westminster.

"The British government draft of the deal is bad enough but could be
worse if that's the case.

"So sensible nationalists and people who care for the Agreement
know the importance of a strengthened SDLP in this election."

Mr Durkan is engaged in a do-or-die battle for Mr Hume's Foyle seat
which Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin believes he
can take.

Sinn Féin has been optimistic about its chances of winning the seat
on the basis of canvas returns and is also confident about capturing
former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon's Newry and Armagh

Party vice-president Pat Doherty yesterday claimed a strong
nationalist turnout on May 5 could see Sinn Féin become the North's
largest political party in terms of vote share.

The West Tyrone Assembly member said: "Having analysed the
canvas returns from all 18 constituencies, our assessment is that
Sinn Féin can become the largest party in the North, in terms of
popular support, at this election.

"If the largest party after this election is both nationalist and pro-
Agreement, this will impact significantly on the future of the political

Mr Durkan insisted the SDLP was happy with its campaign and
believed it could perform well on a strong turnout on Thursday.

He accused Mr Doherty of playing into the hands of the DUP by
arguing Sinn Féin could be the largest party.

"This is just Sinn Féin and the DUP trying to pump each other up,"
the Foyle Assembly member said.

"The DUP has been trying to make this an election between Sinn Féin
and themselves and both of them are trying to reduce things to two
party politics based on them.

"This is the DUP's game plan. Its deputy leader Peter Robinson has
called for it for a number of years because in a two-party set-up, he
can declare the Agreement a bust.

"Sinn Féin is playing into his hands."


Kilclooney's Rallying Cry

By Noel McAdam
03 May 2005

A senior Ulster Unionist last night held out the prospect of the
potential wipe-out of his party's MPs in the General Election.

Lord Kilclooney warned the "worst scenario" was the possible
election of 11 DUP MPs, six Sinn Fein and a single SDLP MP.

The peer, formerly John Taylor MP, insisted 100,000 mainly middle-
class unionists who have stayed at home in recent elections could
still achieve a turnaround.

He said there are at least eight constituencies where the result could
go either way - compared to the predictability of elections over
recent decades.

"This is the most exciting election for 30 years and the final result
will depend upon the turnout," he warned in a statement.

"The worst scenario is the possible election of 11 DUP MPs, six Sinn
Fein MPs and one SDLP MP.

"That is the one result which will weaken support by British MPs for
the retention of Northern Ireland within the UK.

"However, all this can be changed if the 100,000 unionists - mainly
middle-class - who have failed to vote in recent years turn out to vote
this week.

"For the first time, your vote will really make a difference in
constituencies such as East Belfast; South Belfast; East Antrim;
Lagan Valley; South Antrim; Upper Bann; North Down; Strangford
and East Londonderry.

His appeal came as the DUP's Peter Robinson claimed unionists in
all constituencies were preparing to vote DUP for the first time.

"After the election, the challenge facing the DUP as the dominant
unionist party will be to further the cause of unionist unity," he said.

"May 5th is not the end of the process of uniting unionism but merely
another stage in this long-term goal. We must continue to build the
widest possible coalition of support for the message the DUP has
been setting out during this campaign.

"After years of division, unionist unity is finally coming about, not
between the UUP and DUP, but within the Democratic Unionist


Battle Over RIR

By Noel McAdam
03 May 2005

David Burnside and William McCrea accused each other of insults
and lies yesterday as the battle for South Antrim intensified.

The Ulster Unionist and DUP rivals traded blows over the Royal Irish
Regiment and future negotiations to restore devolution as their
election race entered its final furlong.

Mr Burnside said he found it personally offensive that a leaflet
distributed by Mr McCrea claimed the "blatant lie" that the UUP had
negotiated the "destruction" of the RIR.

And the outgoing MP said that while he served in the Ulster Defence
Regiment in the 1970s, Mr McCrea had not, though "I believe (he)
was fit and well enough" to do so.

"The Royal Irish Regiment has not been destroyed. The Home
Battalions continue in existence. I am proud to have served in the
UDR in the mid-70s as are many thousands of fellow Ulstermen and

"The Rev McCrea I believe was fit and well enough to have joined the
UDR or the RUC Reserve - he decided not to do so.

"Since he has no record of service in the forces of the Crown it ill
befits him to tell a lie about my party's policy on the Royal Irish and
to try and mislead people or create false fears within the unionist

Mr McCrea hit back, however, that ministers of religion had not been
permitted to join the security forces and accused Mr Burnside of a
"cheap shot".

The Mid Ulster Assembly man said he stood over his leaflet and a
question mark remained over the RIR, which had formed part of the
Weston Park negotiations almost four years ago.

"David Trimble still refuses to disclose the detail of that but we have
had leaks. To be honest, he went to see (Defence Minister) Geoff
Hoon who said they had not made a final decision and there remains
a clear rumour about the part-time element of the RIR," Mr McCrea

"He (Mr Burnside) is also on the doorsteps portraying himself as a
unifier, yet he belongs to a party whose leader wants to move ahead
without the DUP and equates us to the republican movement.

"That to me is an insult."


Breakthrough Over Flag-Flying In Town

By Elinor Glynn
Tuesday 3rd May 2005

Paramilitary emblems are to be run down the flagpoles in Larne.

As the marching season gets underway, the number of flags flying
above paraders will be cut to a tenth of current levels in the town.

The breakthrough on the contentious issue of flag-flying in public
places was reached following months of negotiations between
representatives of community groups and loyalist organisations.

It is understood an agreement amongst the parties has determined
that paramilitary flags will only be raised for four weeks in July and
only in designated loyalist areas of the borough.

The present number currently up on masts of about 100 will be
slashed to 10.

No paramilitary emblems will be flown on main routes in or around
the town and none will be permitted in the vicinity of churches or
schools in a bid to curb offence.

The measures drawn up also cover Union and Ulster flags which are
now to be flown within loyalist communities at a distance from the
centre of Larne.

Last summer, a number of public order incidents arose out of the
erection of paramilitary flags outside homes in a number of mixed
residential areas in the town highlighting the need for a grassroots

The result of long-running talks between community representatives
and loyalist groups is thought to be unique to Larne.

It comes just one month after a new Province-wide protocol was
launched by the PSNI, Northern Ireland Office and statutory agencies
to stamp out the use of paramilitary flags and emblems as a means
of intimidation.

While supportive of the policy, East Antrim MP Roy Beggs says it
could go even further. "I respect the Union and Ulster flags and fully
support them flying during the celebrations in July but deplore the
misuse of any flag or emblem to intimidate those who may differ
from our political and cultural views," said the Ulster Unionist.

"The flying of paramilitary flags only serves to divide the community
and inflame sectarian passions.

"I believe the flying of any paramilitary flags is a practice that should
be consigned totally to the past."


Boy Injured As Clothes Catch Fire

A teenage boy has been injured in a fire at a house near Poleglass on
the outskirts of west Belfast.
Local people said the boy's clothes caught fire after the blaze started
in a garden shed on Monday night.

The boy's father and a neighbour rushed to help him. He is in a
stable condition in hospital.

The fire then spread to an oil tank before engulfing an electricity sub-
station, leaving 1,000 homes in the area without power.

It is thought the fire started in the shed at the house in Lagmore
Meadows off the Stewartstown Road.

Neighbour Toni Devine said when she went outside, the boy was on

"Both of us used our hoses to try and put the fire out, but it got
completely out of control" she said.

Brian McClintock of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service
said crews encountered a well-developed fire.

"It is quite spectacular when it involves electrical apparatus," said
the assistant divisional commander.

Because the houses were on a gradient, it meant the oil from the
tank was able to flow quite freely once the tank had melted
Brian McClintock
NI Fire and Rescue Service

"The original call was to a shed on fire. But the sequence was that
the fire spread to a domestic oil tank, which in turn then set light to
the electrical sub-station."

He said people should not tackle fires unless it is safe to do so.

"Clearly in this situation that would not have been suitable.

"Because the houses were on a gradient, it meant the oil from the
tank was able to flow quite freely once the tank had melted," he said.

Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) said work had begun to repair the
sub-station and power was being restored to the affected homes.

Some residents said the sub-station should be moved.

Robin Greer of NIE said all sub-stations were built to very high safety

"We have had an increase in the number of problems around sub-
stations with vandalism," he said.

"The answer is not always keep moving or reinforcing sub-stations.
Sometimes we go down that route and find that the vandalism

He added: "Given that you had a big oil tank exploding and oil
flowing down the street, it would be very hard to find a way of
protecting a sub-station from that type of problem."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/05/03 06:01:56 GMT


Help Bring Margaret Home, Plea

Irish urged to step up pressure

By Kim Kelly in Dublin
03 May 2005

Calls were made last night for the Irish Government to do everything
in its power to bring home the body of Margaret Hassan.

Dublin-born Mrs Hassan (59), the director of CARE International in
Iraq, was kidnapped by gunmen on her way to work in Baghdad last

One month later al-Jazeera television received a video showing a
man shooting a blindfolded woman who appeared to be Mrs Hassan,
but her body has never been found.

Baghdad Embassy officials confirmed on Sunday that four Iraqis
were being held in connection with the murder.

US and Iraqi forces raided a suspected insurgents' hideout at dawn
on Monday in the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

They found weapons and a bag, documents and clothes belonging to
Margaret Hassan.

They arrested six armed men and in a separate raid picked up five
Iraqis who later confessed to the murder.

Four of the men were last night still being held in custody.

The Republic's Labour Party Foreign Affairs spokesman Michael D
Higgins, who was a friend of the Irish-born aid worker known as the
Mother Teresa of Baghdad, said her family needs closure.

Mr Higgins has visited Iraq several times and last year made an
appeal on Arab television for the safe release of hostage Ken Bigley.

"I have spoken to Margaret's family and it would be an immense
relief for them if the body could be found," he said.

"The Irish Government must do everything possible to speed up the
finding, identification and return of Margaret's body."

He described Mrs Hassan, who held Irish, British and Iraqi
citizenship, as an "impressive" woman.

"I spoke to her before the war and I was amazed that she was staying
in Iraq. Her commitment to the children was incredible," said Mr

UK authorities were yesterday carrying out further investigations in
Baghdad and liaising closely with the US authorities.

Mrs Hassan spent nearly half her life working for an aid agency in
Iraq delivering food and medicine.

Last month, Margaret Hassan was posthumously awarded the
Tipperary International Peace Prize for her humanitarian work in Iraq.


Five 'Confess' To Murder Of Aid Worker

By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor
02 May 2005

Five 'confess' to murder of aid worker

Lynndie England in plea bargain to cut prison term

Leading article: Iraq needs justice, not scapegoats

Iraqi and US forces claimthey have arrested 11 men suspected of
being linked to the kidnap and murder of the aid worker Margaret

The arrests came on another day of violence in Iraq, which saw
suicide bombers kill at least 15 people at a Kurdish funeral in the
northern town of Talafar. And in a chilling echo of the Hassan case,
Islamic militants released a video apparently showing an Australian
hostage, Douglas Wood, pleading for his life.

The kidnap of Mrs Hassan, 59, who had British, Irish and Iraqi
nationality, provoked an international outcry when she was seized
last October after spending yearscaring for Iraqis.

Iraqi police said that five of those arrested in a raid on a house in the
southern outskirts of Baghdad had confessed to killing her.

They also said documents, a handbag and clothing apparently
belonging to Mrs Hassan, whose body was never found, were
recovered. But the British embassy did not confirm that the arrests
were "definitively" linked to Mrs Hassan, and it could not be ruled
out that the confessions were obtained using torture. According to
the embassy, three people were arrested.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The UK authorities are
carrying out urgent further investigation and liaising closely with the
US authorities."

Mrs Hassan was last seen in a video pleading for her life, and urging
Tony Blair to withdraw troops from Iraq, one month after she was
seized on her way to work on 19 October. Mrs Hassan, who was born
in Ireland, had worked for Care International in Iraq since 1991, when
the relief organisation began operations in the country.

Insurgents have stepped up co-ordinated attacks after last week's
announcement of the formation of an Iraqi government. The attacks
are a challenge to the authority of the government which emerged
from the first democratic elections after three months of negotiations
among the main political factions.

The political squabbling and renewed violence have brought about a
return to sectarian tensions, with politicians struggling to balance
the interests of Shias and Kurds, the main victors in last January's
elections, and the Sunni minority which dominated Iraq under
Saddam Hussein.

The video of Mr Wood, 63, showed the insignia of the Shura Council
of the Mujahedin of Iraq, which has claimed attacks previously on US
and Iraqi troops. The kidnapping was apparently timed to coincide
with a visit by Australia's Defence Minister, Robert Hill, who
announced an increase in the number of troops his country has
committed to Iraq.

Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, said last night his
government would not bow to the kidnappers' demands to withdraw
troops from Iraq. "We can't have the foreign policy of this country
dictated by terrorists," Mr Howard said.

In the video, Mr Wood, who lives in California, appeals to US,
Australian and British authorities to withdraw their forces from the
country. "I don't want to die," he said on the videotape, which
showed him sitting on the floor flanked by two masked men armed
with assault rifles.

Mr Wood said he had worked in Iraq for more than a year and "has
done many jobs with the American military" although it is not clear
what work he does.

With his head slumped forward and voice close to breaking, he says:
"My captors are fiercely patriotic. They believe in a strong, united
Iraq looking after its own destiny ... Please take the American troops,
the Australian troops, the British troops out of here and let Iraq look
after itself."

Three Romanians and their Iraqi-American translator were shown on
al-Jazeera television last week being threatened with death unless
Romanian soldiers in Iraq were withdrawn.

Police said that a series of ambushes, car bombs and shootings
killed at least nine Iraqis and wounded 21 yesterday. The dead
included five Iraqi policemen shot dead at a Baghdad checkpoint.

Attacks by Sunni Muslim insurgents have killed 74 people since


TDs Head To Washington To Lobby For Immigration Bill

Tens of thousands of illegal Irish immigrants in the United States are
eagerly awaiting news of a bill expected to go before Congress soon,
which could see them achieve legal status.

A group of TDs is heading for Washington to lobby for the bill being
proposed by Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain.

While the exact details are not known, it`s believed it will allow illegal
immigrants to pay a fine and apply for legal status.


Belfast Bar In Centre Of Legal Row

The famous Crown Bar in Belfast is at the centre of a legal wrangle,
the High Court heard today.

The National Trust, which owns the renowned watering hole on Great
Victoria Street, wants to scrap its lease with Bass Ireland Ltd, it`s
tenant since 1978.

Barrister Alistair Devlin said Bass had acted contrary to the
provisions of its lease by assigning part of the lease to Mitchells and
Butler Ltd.

"We say we are entitled to forfeiture," he told Mr Justice Weir.

Mitchells and Butler Ltd, a retail pub chain, is a subsidiary company
of Six

Continents Ltd., which emerged following the reorganisation of the
former Bass brewing empire.

The court was told that further legal papers had still to be exchanged
between the parties and the case was adjourned until June 21 for a

The actual hearing was pencilled in to start of December 5 and is
expected to last three days.
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