UK rejects probe into killings of 10 Catholics in Belfast in 1971

The British government has decided not to order a fact-finding probe into the alleged killing of 10 Belfast Catholics, including a priest, by British troops in August 1971 during three days of gun battles.

Tuesday's decision follows years of lobbying by families of the dead, who wanted Britain to mount a probe similar to the one that explored 1972's Bloody Sunday, when troops shot to death 13 Catholic demonstrators in another city, Londonderry. That probe took 12 years to conclude that the soldiers killed unarmed civilians, not armed IRA members as they claimed.

Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, says a similar probe into the so-called "Ballymurphy Massacre" would undermine existing coroner investigations into the killings.

Irish nationalist politicians and human rights groups criticized the decision.