British forces have finally admitted the deadly SAS were called in to wipe out an IRA active service unit in an ambush that became known as the Loughgall massacre.

Relatives of Patrick Kelly, who commanded the IRA unit gunned down in 1987, have also alleged that the North’s police Chief backed the decision to deploy the crack killer troops.

The IRA man’s sister Roisin emerged from talks with Hugh Orde and said: “He told us the RUC were involved up to a point and then they called in the SAS.

“In my interpretation the RUC abdicated responsibility. Everybody knows around the world that the SAS go in to kill, they don’t go in to arrest.”

She added: “Hugh Orde says he wants to draw a line under all this and move forward yet it seems nothing has changed.”

Kelly, who ran the IRA’s East Tyrone brigade, was shot dead alongside seven comrades in a planned ambush: Declan Arthurs, Seamus Donnelly, Michael Anthony Gormley, Eugene Kelly, James Lynagh, Padraig McKearney, and Gerard O’Callaghan.

Anthony Hughes a civilian was also shot dead and his brother seriously injured when they drove their car into the firing zone.

The SAS have been implicated in a number of other controversial killings, including the cold-blooded murder of three IRA activists in Gibraltar in 1998.

The meeting between Mr Orde and Mrs Kelly and her sister Mairead to discuss the shoot-to-kill massacre was controversial.

The dead men’s families have never been told why they were not arrested. In 2001 a landmark European court ruling found that their right to life had been violated, but the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign is still seeking answers to the families’ questions.

For Ms Kelly, the meeting provided a breakthrough of sorts. “This was a confirmation we didn’t have before,” she said.

“Now we want to speak to the [British] Army GOC and ask why, with 24 soldiers sitting around, could they not have arrested these men? Did they have to kill them?”

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