herald

Saturday 18 November 2017

RIRA attack halted in huge weapons find

A deadly weapons cache belonging to the Real IRA has been uncovered by gardai.

It was the second weapons discovery in three days and sources believe that the garda operation has foiled an "imminent republican attack".

The terrorist group involved is being part-funded by a dissident republican gang from north Dublin who have extorted over €400,000 from major Dublin drug dealers this year.

Armed officers from the Emergency Response Unit made the discovery during searches in wooded areas outside Dunleer, Co Louth.

The huge arsenal included three kilograms of TNT explosive, a light general purpose machine gun (GPMG) and tripod, a rocket launcher, large quantity of ammunition and an improvised mortar.

The haul also included more than a dozen detonators that had been fully assembled, a couple of timer power units and parts for other units, a large amount of bomb components, a pipe bomb and a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun.

The horizontal mortar discovered, has a warhead containing highly explosive material, is capable of taking out an armoured vehicle.

Gardai made the chilling discovery at 4pm yesterday in a carefully concealed hide in Barmeath Wood.

The weapons were found buried in barrels in what garda sources called "one of the most significant finds for years".

"The gardai have stopped an imminent attack on the security of Northern Ireland," a source told the Herald.

"It is worrying development that the Real IRA seems to have been able to amass the equipment needed for a new wave of violence.

"This equipment was relatively new and ready to be used."

The search was coordinated by the Special Branch, Emergency Response Unit and National Surveillance Unit, backed up by local gardai.

Detectives also found special clothing used by terrorists to foil forensic examination of items by police experts.

Some of the weaponry seized was thought to have originated in eastern Europe and was likely to have been imported in the past couple of years by the Real IRA faction aligned to the group's former director of operations, from outside Dundalk.

Yesterday's discovery was much larger than the arsenal uncovered after the discovery of a bomb factory in a shed at Barntown, Co Wexford, at the weekend.

Officers from the Garda Technical Bureau yesterday learned that detonators found during the Barntown search contained Semtex explosive.

Forty grammes of the explosive, which was imported in huge quantities from Libya by the Provisional IRA in the mid-1980s, were seized by gardai during raids on 21 houses and premises in counties Wexford, Waterford and Louth.

A detailed examination of the suspected Real IRA bomb factory in the makeshift shed was continuing yesterday as members of the Garda Technical Bureau combed through the find before transferring the items to their headquarters at the Phoenix Park in Dublin.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy was defiant yesterday in saying that gardai, in conjunction with the PSNI, were determined to preserve the peace in Northern Ireland which is under threat.

"This represents a further step in our determined strategy to target, disrupt and detect the activities of dissident republicans," he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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