A covert British Army spying operation has been uncovered on the outskirts of west Belfast.

A man was out walking his dog on the Black Mountain when he stumbled across the camouflaged surveillance team. Four British soldiers were dug into bushes at a strategic site overlooking much of west Belfast.

The men wore camouflage netting over their heads and uniforms, and had their faces painted. They were in possession of high-powered binoculars, communication equipment and were armed.

A number of well-known republicans live in the area which was under watch at the time.

British Army activity has increased in the area in the past week, with increased aerial surveillance and helicopter overflights.

On a number of occasions over the years, high-resolution remote cameras and long-distance listening devices were uncovered at various points on the mountain.

The British Army has gone to extreme lengths to ensure its covert activities remain so, even setting fire to the mountain in a bid to conceal evidence of their activity.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly said that the discovery was “a hugely sinister development”.

“This is the sort of military activity which you will not hear the IMC [Independent Monitoring Commission] reporting on. It bears all the hallmarks of the operation outside the home of Roseanne Mallon in Tyrone when the British military spied on people murdering the pensioner.

“ At a time when loyalists are engaged in ongoing feuding and there is a real fear that this will spread into attacks on nationalists the irony of the British state engaging in covert spying operations against the nationalist community is not lost.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News