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Cairo Gang

(Part 1)

cairo gang

The "Cairo Gang" was a group of British Intelligence agents who were sent to Dublin during the Anglo-Irish War to wipe out prominent members of the Irish Republican Army.

Numerous members of the Gang, along with some other British agents, were assassinated on the morning of 21 November 1920 by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) in a planned series of simultaneous early morning strikes engineered by Michael Collins.

Some Irish historians (such as Tim Pat Coogan and Conor Cruise O"Brien) dispute assertions of a common history of service in the Middle East as the reason for the unit"s nom de guerre. It has been suggested that they were called the Cairo Gang because they often held meetings at the Cairo Cafe in Dublin.

 

Background

By 1920, the considerable success of the IRA, in particular its Intelligence Department under Michael Collins, was a cause of concern in Dublin Castle, the then headquarters of the British administration in Ireland. The IRA"s unprecedented success led to the British government"s demand that the IRA be eliminated. This was the reason for the Cairo Gang"s formation, under the command of Brigadier-General Sir Ormonde Winter.

The Cairo Gang"s members were put up in boarding houses across Dublin, where they lived unobtrusively while preparing a "hit list" of known republicans. However, the IRA Intelligence Department (IRAID) was one step ahead of them and was receiving information from a well placed source in the Dublin Metropolitan Police, Sergeant Mannix, stationed in Donnybrook. Mannix provided the IRAID with a comprehensive list of names and addresses for all the members of the Cairo Gang.

From then on, all the members of the gang were kept under surveillance for several weeks, and intelligence was gathered from sympathisers (for example, concerning people who were coming home at strange hours, which would indicate that they were being allowed through the military curfews). The IRA Dublin Brigade and the IRAID then pooled their resources and intelligence to draw up their own "hit list" of suspected gang members and set the date for the assassinations to be carried out: 21 November 1920 at 9.00am sharp.

 

Assassinations

The operation was planned by several senior IRA members, including Michael Collins, Dick McKee, Liam Tobin, Peadar Clancy, Tom Cullen, Frank Thornton and Oscar Traynor. The killings were planned to coincide with the Gaelic football match between County Dublin and County Tipperary because the large crowds around Dublin would provide easier movement and less chance of detection for the members of Collins" Squad carrying out the assassinations. Clancy and McKee were picked up by the British on the evening of Saturday, 20 November. They were interrogated, tortured and shot dead, along with a Gaelic student, Conor Clune, the nephew of Archbishop Clune.

The operation began at 9.00am when members of the Squad entered 28 Pembroke Street. The first British agents to die were Major Dowling and Captain Leonard Price. Andy Cooney of the Dublin Brigade removed documents from their rooms before three more members of the Gang were shot in the same house: Captain Keenlyside, Colonel Woodcock, and Colonel Montgomery. As Keenlyside was about to be shot a struggle ensued between his wife and Mick O"Hanlon. The leader of the unit, Mick Flanagan, arrived, pushed Mrs. Keenlyside out of the way and shot her husband.

At 119 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, not far from the scene of the first shootings, another member of the Cairo Gang, Lieutenant Donald Lewis MacLean, along with suspected informer T. H. Smith, and McLean"s brother-in-law, John Caldow, were taken into the hallway and about to be shot, when McLean asked that they not be shot in front of his wife. The three were taken to the roof where they were shot by Vinnie Byrne and Se?n Doyle. Caldow survived his wounds and fled to his home in Scotland.

Next, at 92 Lower Baggot Street, another member, Captain Newbury and his wife heard their front door come crashing down and blockaded themselves into their bedroom. Newbury rushed for his window to try and escape but was shot while climbing out by Bill Stapleton and Joe Leonard after they finally broke the door down. Newbury"s corpse hung out of a window for several hours as the Black and Tans waited to approach, fearing the body might have been booby-trapped.

Two key members of the Gang, Lt. Peter Ashmun Ames and Captain George Bennett, were shot and killed, following a short gun battle, after a sympathetic maid let their attackers into 38 Upper Mount Street.

Sgt. John J. Fitzgerald, of the Royal Irish Constabulary, also known as "Captain Fitzgerald" or "Captain Fitzpatrick", whose father was from County Tipperary, was shot and killed at 28 Earlsfort Terrace. He had survived a previous assassination attempt when the bullet only grazed his head. This time he was shot twice in the head. The documents found in his house detailed the movements of senior IRA members. ........

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com


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