SAS planned ‘shoot-to-kill’ ops against Real IRA after peace deal, claims ex-soldier

© Dylan Martinez
Special Forces soldiers planned a no-questions-asked shoot-to-kill operation in response to a bid by Republican dissidents to gun down British troops at an ATM in Northern Ireland’s County Tyrone, a former soldier has claimed.

The unconfirmed allegations have been made by an Irish-born former soldier who worked as a surveillance expert attached to an SAS unit in Northern Ireland between 2001 and 2004.

Sean Hartnett – an assumed name – detailed the operation in his new book ‘Charlie One’, which is being serialized on the Irish News website. The title refers to the status of a ‘most wanted’ target.

Hartnett describes how a vicious game of cat and mouse ensued after Real IRA dissidents spotted soldiers regularly using a free cash machine near St Lucia Barracks in Tyrone in defiance of orders. The ATM in their camp charged them for withdrawals.

The terrorists planned a drive-by shooting using a motorbike. They did not realize that surveillance experts such as Hartnett from the North Det, the local surveillance and special operations base, were already listening in on them.

From there, the former soldier claims, events took a darker turn as the SAS planned what he infers was an extrajudicial killing in response. They felt particularly vengeful because of the recent death of a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer, he says.

Hartnett said he was told by the SAS this would be “the first real opportunity” to “get” a dissident and that there “aren’t going to be any arrests on this one.

That’s why we’re leaving them to get to the point where they’re just about to open fire, that way we have just cause to engage them.

I had always known that the operators at North Det would not shrink from a firefight if one came their way, but this was the first time I had heard them talk about an outright shoot-to- kill policy,” he said.

He said it was clear that “only the pillion passenger would be armed but the Det still planned to shoot the driver, even though he would be unarmed.

Hartnett says he “wondered had the Det really learned anything since then. There was no doubt that they would be able to justify their actions, but that still didn’t make it right.

He claims the operation was called off after the bike broke down, but in 2009 a similar attack killed two soldiers who had come to the camp gates to collect a takeaway pizza.