herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

'No specific threat' but Flanagan wants terror cell report from gardai

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan insists there is no "specific threat" to Ireland from terrorists, despite the Herald revealing a secret Islamic State (IS) terror cell being monitored by gardai in the west of the country.

Mr Flanagan said he would be seeking a report from interim Garda Commissioner Donal O Cualain on the eight-man "organised terror cell", headed by two Chechen brothers.

"Our gardai engage at the highest level with EU colleagues in sharing intelligence," said Mr Flanagan.

"We have permanent representatives in Paris and The Hague, so I'm satisfied that the level of intelligence is good.

Dummy

"Of course Ireland is not immune from terrorist activity, but we don't have any specific evidence of any threat to our people or society.

"But we very much keep matters under review and, on the issue in the west, I will be seeking a report from the Garda Commissioner in the next couple of days."

Senior sources have revealed that gardai have been monitoring the cell's activities for a number of months.

The suspected Islamic extremists, who live in various rural locations, are being investigated for using An Post and courier services for "dummy runs" to send items to the war-torn Middle East.

The jihadi group is also suspected of being involved in fundraising and electronically transferring funds from Ireland to extremist organisations.

"The belief is that members of this network are deeply committed to the Islamic State and they are organised," said a source.

"It has been established that they have attempted to send small internal parts of computers to locations such as Chechnya, Iraq and Syria.

"It is believed that they have been doing this as 'dummy runs' for perhaps attempting to send something more sinister such as bomb components out of the country."

The group is being monitored by detectives based in Galway, but the Special Detective Unit's Counter-Terrorism International (CTI) unit is also aware of the cell's activities. It is understood international authorities are being kept informed.

While the group's members have been questioned by gardai in the past, they have not yet been arrested for any terrorist offences.

The Herald revealed earlier this week that Islamic extremists are using unsuspecting students at Irish third level colleges to transfer the proceeds of internet fraud to finance IS terrorist operations.

The unwitting, mostly foreign students are duped into opening personal accounts in Irish banks by secret IS sympathisers, who are members of a back-up network providing logistical support in the form of cash and false travel documents to terrorists in Britain and Europe.

Shoot

Known as "mules", the oblivious participants are given money to open the accounts in return for the Pin codes, ATM cards and online banking details.

Gardai remain deeply concerned that an Islamic terror attack could happen here and are constantly preparing for such an eventuality, but the threat level officially remains moderate. This means that an attack is possible but not likely.

Last month, it emerged that a "shoot first" policy against jihadi-style terrorists would be adopted by gardai under a new anti-terror plan.

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