Feud revenge hit foiled as armed gardai seize pistol in swoop on taxi
Driver and two associates of slain drug dealer arrested
Thugs who opened fire on car were suspected targets
Armed gardai foiled a hit in the out-of-control Coolock feud, the Herald can reveal.
Senior sources said a "retaliation" murder was thwarted on Wednesday in the latest armed intervention by officers in the vendetta which has been raging for six months.
The Herald can reveal:
• The hit was planned in revenge for an attack on an associate of slain Sean Little.
• In that attack, on Monday, a car was shot at but no one was injured.
• The foiled hit on Wednesday has raised concerns among officers of the increased use of "friendly taxi drivers" by gangsters.
At 9.30pm, armed officers stopped a taxi driven by a 53-year-old north Dublin man on Oscar Traynor Road, Coolock, and seized a handgun.
Inside were two close associates of drug dealer Little, who was murdered last May.
It is suspected the Coolock pair, aged 24 and 23, were on their way to carry out a revenge shooting after one of their associates was targeted in an attempted murder on Monday.
Neither of the men has previous convictions for organised crime and both were still being questioned last night at Coolock and Ballymun garda stations, along with the taxi man.
However, senior sources have confirmed the pair are considered members of the Little faction which has been involved in multiple revenge plots since their leader was lured to his death near Balbriggan.
It is understood the pair were on their way to gun down thugs they blamed for opening fire on a car in Edenmore Avenue on bank holiday Monday.
There was no one in the car when a lone gunman walked up and fired several shots into it at 4.30pm.
A shell from a 9mm handgun was found by officers who carried out a forensic examination.
Despite no one being in the vehicle, the incident has been classified as attempted murder because of garda intelligence and the fact the 21-year-old target had been warned that there was a threat against his life.
Gardai suspect associates of the 21-year-old were trying to "take out" an unidentified individual for the attempted murder when they made their intercept on Wednesday.
Gardai yesterday released details of their successful operation against Little's associates.
"On Wednesday at approximately 9.30pm, gardai from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB), assisted by gardai in Security and Intell- igence, stopped a vehicle on Oscar Traynor Road, Dublin 5," a spokesman said.
"Following a search of the vehicle, a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition were seized.
"Three male occupants of the vehicle, who are aged 53, 24 and 23, were arrested and are currently detained at Ballymun and Coolock garda stations."
Several gangs are involved in the complex feuding in Coolock, with lines becomingly "increasingly blurred".
Gardai investigating one serious gun attack in recent months are now probing if the victim was targeted by his close associates who have become increasingly paranoid.
In a bizarre development, detectives are also investigating if an older female relative of the suspected gunman acted as a getaway driver for the shooting.
A source said last night: "There is a lot of paranoia - even the criminals are finding it hard to establish which side the others are on.
"There are at least four separate disputes going on in a small area, but gardai have had a number of successes targeting those involved."
At least four suspected hits have been foiled by gardai, while a number of arson attacks and shootings are also being investigated.
Dozens of people living across a number of north Dublin suburbs, including Santry, Coolock and Ballymun, have been identified as being linked to the violence or at risk of being targeted.
Women closely linked to two of the criminals are also being blamed for giving "logistical support" to their male associates.
Gardai across the capital are becoming increasingly concerned about the activities of what they term "friendly taxi drivers" who are either working or being used by organised crime gangs.
"So we have a 53-year-old taxi driver in custody now after two criminals were caught with a gun and ammunition in his car as part of a covert intelligence operation," the source said.
"It is unclear what his exact role in all this is, but it was his car, he was driving.
"This is not the first time in recent weeks that gardai have come across something like this.
"Recently, the GNDOCB arrested an elderly taxi man who was never on the garda radar on suspicion of laundering hundreds of thousands of euro for the Kinahan cartel.
"The message should get out that gardai are aware of these taxi drivers who are friendly to the gangs causing so much destruction."
The Coolock feud has been "live and active" ever since Sean Little was lured to a laneway off the M1 in Walshestown near Balbriggan on May 22 before being shot dead.
His body was found beside his car, which had been set alight.