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Cypriots and soldiers in songbird stand-off

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Cypriots and soldiers in songbird stand-off

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Church bells were used in the middle of the night to rouse 800 Cypriots to protest against an operation by the British military.

Three-hundred soldiers from a British base on the island moved in overnight on Wednesday/Thursday to cut down trees that are used to illegally trap songbirds.

Songbirds are a local delicacy and are trapped in their thousands each year, according to campaigners.

The action led to a stand-off between soldiers and locals on Thursday morning.

But Christian Grey, spokesman for the base, played down the stand-off to the Cyprus Mail, saying it was a peaceful protest and soldiers were free to leave at any time.

He said the operation was aimed at cutting down vegetation that was obstructing the view of a firing range.

But that differs from what British military sources on the islands said in the summer, when they claimed action was being taken against illegal bird hunting, including the chopping down of 54 acacia trees.

They wrote at the time: “It should be noted that, unfortunately, there is little prospect of a swift resolution to the wider problem of bird trapping across the whole of the island. Cultural attitudes would need to change in areas of Cyprus and, unfortunately, bird trapping has some political support and this remains a lucrative business, particularly where there is a significant demand for the birds in certain restaurants in the Republic of Cyprus.”