The Irish Republican Army on Friday shot and killed a part-time soldier and set a one-week deadline for the wives and children of British soldiers to leave Northern Ireland.
The outlawed guerrilla group, which launched a campaign in March against British servicemen, made it clear that it regarded the men's families as legitimate targets.The deadline for the wives and children was the first set by the IRA, which is fighting to drive the British out of Northern Ireland and unite the mainly Protestant province with the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Irish Republic.
"The IRA from today is giving seven days to the British army to evacuate their families from the north of Ireland. After that, the responsibility for casualties rests solely with them," the group said in a statement telexed to news media in Belfast.
The statement was signed P. O'Neill - a traditional IRA signature.
About 10,500 British troops are deployed in Northern Ireland, all living in barracks complexes. The British army refused to comment on the warning or say how many had their families with them, but unofficial estimates put the figure at between 1,500 and 2,000.
The IRA threat followed three bomb attacks on British army married quarters in the past month - one on the outskirts of Londonderry, one at Lisburn where the army is headquartered, and one at Antrim. No one was injured.
The IRA claimed responsibility for the slaying Friday of an off-duty soldier. The victim was a member of the locally recruited Ulster Defense Regiment attached to the British army.