Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

The easy option for harried terrorists

Downing Street used an old and familiar term – a phrase that harks back to the IRA 'war' years.

We were told explosive packages delivered to Army careers offices bear the hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism.

And intelligence sources have confirmed that dissident republican involvement is "the strongest line of inquiry".

The packages are similar to those sent to the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State here late last year.

In terms of make-up, no one is talking about high explosives or anything at that level of sophistication, but rather devices that are "extremely basic".

For the dissidents this is low-risk activity, but with a high return in terms of impact.

As the story was emerging yesterday we were told that the Prime Minister had chaired a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to assess the emerging threat. From a safe distance – armed with just an address, an envelope, some powder and wires – the dissidents can cause panic. These are not devices capable of widespread damage, but the fact that they are being described as viable suggests a potential to injure anyone who might open one of the packages.

There will also be concern not just about what has been found, but what might still be out there in the postal system.

What other addresses could have been targeted?

And while politicians, police and MI5 continue with their analysis, the dissidents can now sit back and watch.

For them, this is easy.

It doesn't come with the risk of trying to get people and equipment into Britain under the security and intelligence radar.

What they have done, with very little effort, is to make more headlines and news.

No one is suggesting "a new campaign on the mainland", to quote one source. It means there is no evidence to suggest that the dissidents have a capacity to do now what they did more than a decade ago.

That is when they made headlines with a rocket launched at MI6 headquarters, a bomb at the BBC and other attacks.

The dissidents have been under pressure. Many planned attacks have been interrupted and arrests made. So they have chosen another target and another tactic.

This is an easier option.

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