Dissidents target prison warders
Published 24/03/2009 | 09:40
The Continuity IRA has extended its murder agenda to prison officers, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The terror group, which claimed responsibility for murdering Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon a fortnight ago, has now threatened warders at Maghaberry Prison.
The news comes as a 17-year-old boy was appearing in court today charged with the murder of Constable Carroll.
The teenager was due to go before Lisburn Magistrates Court also charged with membership of a proscribed organisation, the Continuity IRA, possession of a firearm with intent and collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists.
Constable Carroll (48) from Banbridge, Co Down was shot dead while answering a call from a woman who had a brick thrown through her window.
Four other people remain in custody being questioned about the murder, as do four arrested over the murder of two soldiers in Antrim 48 hours before the policeman died. Last night two men, aged 27 and 31, who had been questioned for a week about the murder, were released without charge.
A number of officers serving at the top security jail have been warned that some of their personal details are now known to the CIRA and they have been advised to take greater security precautions about their movements.
Three weeks ago the prison was put on alert after the same dissident terror group warned that a bomb had been attached to a named prison warder’s car. The car park used by officers at the jail was sealed off and searched, but no device was found.
The latest warning phoned to the Samaritans organisation gave details of vehicles driven by four prison officers and said that they were being targeted.
The threat to the warders is being taken extremely seriously and all have been advised to step up their personal security.
In a statement, the Prison Service said that it was aware of a phone call to an outside organisation threatening a number of members of prison staff.
The statement said: “While the Prison Service cannot comment on the detail of the call, staff have been advised of the importance or remaining alert with regard to their personal security.”
It is suspected that the Continuity IRA threat arises out of searches of cells occupied by dissident republicans in the jail in recent months when mobile phones, drugs and other banned materials were seized.
While the Prison Service is refusing to discuss details of the threat, prison officers claim that photographs of warders driving into the jail to begin duty have been taken outside the perimeter fence at Maghaberry.
It is claimed that the officers have been identified from the vehicle details provided by the dissidents.
“In the current circumstances it would be foolish not to take any threat from the Continuity IRA seriously,” said one source at the jail.
“This was not conveyed to the PSNI or the Prison Service directly, but with the CIRA claiming responsibility for the murder of Constable Carroll all reports have to be treated very seriously.
“Certain details were provided during the call and the security staff at the jail has established that these details relate to serving prison officers, so it is being taken as a genuine threat.”
Meanwhile the High Court in Belfast is expected to rule today whether six people being questioned about the murders of Con Carroll and the two soldiers can challenge their lengthy detention by police.
They are among eight people still being held over the dissident republican murders of Con Carroll and Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London who were murdered outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim.
The Real IRA claimed responsibility for murdering the soldiers who were attacked as they collected a pizza from a delivery driver at the gates of the barracks. The Continuity IRA said they were responsible for the murder of the policeman.
The court is due to rule later whether the judicial review can go ahead and test the legality of their detention.