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Though security forces and guerrillas have been fighting a brutal war here for the past 12 years, none of the combatants seems to lack the will to continue.

The British Army has suffered 344 dead and 3,438 wounded, yet it carries on as it has done in the many antiterrorist campaigns Britain has fought since 1945 in such places as Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, and Aden.

But if British troops are demonstrating their traditional resilience, so, too , is the Provisional wing of the illegal Irish Republican Army (IRA), observers here point out.

The claim that the "corner is being turned in the war against the terrorists, " made by Roy Mason when he was secretary of state for Northern Ireland in 1977, bears an uncanny resemblance to Pentagon pronouncements during the Vietnam war. In fact the IRA is still very active.

One of its "active service units" recently killed a soldier on the border and attacked a British Army post in west Belfast's Whiterock Road, lobbing seven homemade mortar shells at it from the back of a truck. Four shells exploded in the camp, slightly wounding five soldiers. A small boy was seriously injured by shrapnel another shell that stuck neighboring houses. After the mortar attack, troops and terrorists fought a gun battle, the IRA reportedly using US-made Armalite rifles.

In addition three policemen and a policewoman had a narrow escape in Londonderry last month when their Land-Rover was rocked by an explosion set off in a derelict building.

The IRA is not lacking in bombmaking materials, it appears. An Army foot patrol recently discovered 560 pounds of explosives packed into seven milk churns near Greencastle, County Tyrone. The massive bomb, placed in a culvert beneath a road used frequently by the security forces, would have been fired electrically from a hill 100 yards away. An Army explosives expert took seven hours to defuse it.


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