28 March 2006

Troop withdrawal plan published

BBC


More army watchtowers are to be demolished

The Army has published a timetable for the withdrawal of troops and the closure of bases in Northern Ireland.

At present there are just over 9,000 troops in the province, but that will be reduced to no more than 5,000 by 1 August 2007.

The number of sites where troops are stationed will be reduced to 14 from about 40 in the next year and more watchtowers will be demolished.

The moves are part of the government's security normalisation plans.

It is all part of the end of Operation Banner, the Army's support role for the police during the Troubles.

It has been running for 35 years and is the longest operation in British Army history.

It will end on 1 August next year and by then the Army presence in Northern Ireland will have been radically reduced.

Details of the numbers have been known for some time. However, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram has announced details of the timetable.

During the next 12 months, the five remaining watchtowers in south Armagh will be demolished and the Army will also be withdrawn from most police stations where they still have a presence, including Crossmaglen.

Mahon Road barracks in Portadown, a base for the security forces during the Drumcree standoffs, will be closed by January.

Other significant bases being closed as part of the process include Bessbrook Mill in south Armagh.

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