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Diplomat's '007' tactics revealed.

A former British diplomat, whose only remaining relative lives near Solihull, hired a hit-man to kill Arab rebels and organised the burglaries of their homes in a James Bond-style espionage campaign in Syria during the late 1930s. Lieutenant Colonel Sir Gilbert Mackereth MC, whose cousin John Sloan resides in Knowle, was Britain's consul in Damascus. The Post reported earlier this month that Mackereth's body was to be repatriated from Spain, where he retired, after a row over the cost of tending his grave.

Now a new book recounts the tale of how Mackereth took clandestine action when it became clear that Arab rebels, who were then trying to overthrow British rule in neighbouring Palestine, were using Syria as a safe haven. The country was ruled by the French, but when they refused to help Mackereth, the British diplomat took matters into his own hands and become a real-life 007. A diary belonging to a senior British policeman who knew Mackereth, which was found by historian James Barr in Oxford University's Middle East Centre Archive, shed light on the decidedly undiplomatic tactics that Britain's man in Damascus then used.

Sir Gilbert Mackereth MC In his book, A Line In The Sand, Barr recounts how Mackereth hired a hit man to intercept parties of rebels as they crossed the border into Palestine. In one of these operations the sniper killed three gun-runners, and captured nearly 40 weapons and two boxes of dynamite. Mackereth also organised burglaries at the homes of leading rebels, including Nebih al Asmah, whose brother was the Syrian minister of the interior.

A coded diary was hidden in Al-Asmah's house and Mackereth was able to decrypt the puzzle and reveal that Arab officials had sanctioned the killing of a senior British official in Nazareth weeks earlier.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 25, 2011
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