Britain to retain only 8 army bases in Northern Ireland, officials says

The British Ministry of Defense said military personnel would be cut from its current 9,200 strength to a maximum of 5,000 by August 2007. It said dozens of army bases and watchtowers had already been dismantled or would be gone by that date, while two other bases - Shackleton Barracks in Ballykelly and St. Patrick's Barracks in Ballymena - would close by April 2008.

As part of the cutbacks, the Defense Ministry said at least 1,100 of the army's current 3,400 civilian employees in Northern Ireland were expected to lose their jobs. Defense Secretary John Reid pledged that "every effort will be made to lessen the impact of redundancy with transfer and voluntary retirement."

Britain has already drastically reduced its military presence in Northern Ireland since the Irish Republican Army cease-fire in 1997, when more than 20,000 troops were based in this British territory of 1.7 million.

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