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British Army Ends Northern Ireland Operation After 38 Years

The British army ends its longest continuous military engagement at midnight Tuesday, when responsibility for security in Northern Ireland passes to local authorities.

The official end of Operation Banner, the British code-name for the deployment of troops 38 years ago, comes two years after the largely Catholic Irish Republican Army renounced violence and agreed to disarm. Self-rule was restored in the province earlier this year.

As of Wednesday, security will be the responsibility of Northern Ireland police.

In London, Britain's Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth said the first of August marks the "beginning of a new era."

More than 300,000 British military personnel served in Northern Ireland since 1969, when troops deployed to end Protestant mob attacks on Catholic homes in west Belfast, and fighting between Catholic civilians and police in Londonderry.

A 5,000 troop British garrison will remain in Northern Ireland, but authorities say the garrison will not conduct active operations.

Official records show 763 British personnel killed by para-militaries. The last to die was killed at a vehicle checkpoint in 1997 in County Armagh.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.