CIRA arrests shatter new "terror" unit

A CROSS-BORDER security operation by the gardai and the PSNI has smashed an attempt by the dissident republican group, the Continuity IRA, to set up a new terror unit.

The unit, which was comprised mainly of young members with no previous republican "form", was being established in the border region stretching from Newry and south Armagh to Dundalk.

The Continuity IRA, which opposes the Good Friday Agreement, has been involved in a major recruitment campaign north and south with new members sent to training camps with experienced activists.

However, the renegades have been disrupted regularly by a series of operational strikes by the two police forces, based mainly on intelligence gathering and leaks from informers.

Its re-organisation along the border had been more successful in the past couple of months as the leadership sought to replace key figures who had been arrested earlier this year with "new blood" who were not known to the Special Branch on either side.

The leadership set up a replacement unit of unfamiliar faces which up to now had been mainly involved in minor incidents such as bomb hoaxes.

But anti-terrorist officers from the two forces feared the unit was preparing for a more violent campaign and began focussing on its activities.

Intelligence reports indicated that the unit was short of weaponry and ammunition and sought arms from the logistics section of the organisation in the south.

One of the suspected key figures in the re-organisation is the brother of a former senior republican with the mainstream Provisional movement.

Officers were also concerned that attempts were being made to forge a closer alliance between the Continuity IRA and the other main dissident republican group, the Real IRA.

However, the main force behind the alliance campaign, a Real IRA suspect, has been arrested as part of an operation involving a number of police forces and this, at least temporarily, thwarted the liaison efforts.

Many of the experienced Continuity suspects in the Republic are currently behind bars in Portlaoise prison, but despite this, a number of units based mainly on the northern side of the border have managed to sustain a sporadic terror campaign, although they have not been involved in the recent efforts to intimidate Catholic members of the district policing partnership boards, which have been blamed on the Real IRA.

Tom Brady
Security Editor

© Irish Independent

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