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Five still in custody after police target republicans

Five men remained in custody last night after being arrested close to the border as part of a Garda operation targeting dissident republicans.

The men, aged between 21 and 60, were arrested when armed officers moved in to stop a convoy of cars close to Omeath in Co Louth on Saturday morning.

Officers said last night that, contrary to weekend reports, no shots were fired at gardai.

They also said no explosives were seized during the operation.

However, a quantity of ammunition was discovered in follow-up searches on homes and buildings in Co Louth and Co Meath.

The arrests came just hours before a bomb blast which destroyed a bridge in south Armagh.

The two events have raised fears that the dissident Real IRA and Continuity IRA groups may have been planning a terrorist attack to coincide with today's Orange Order parades.

The PSNI said the bomb had been designed to kill or maim its officers.

Gardai and the PSNI were last night investigating possible links between the blast and an ongoing investigation into dissident activity in Co Louth.

The five men can be held for 72 hours after being detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

Two were being held at Drogheda Garda Station and two at Dundalk Garda Station, while one man was being questioned by gardai in Balbriggan.

They were travelling in three cars which were stopped by officers from the Special Detective and Emergency Response units, backed up by local detectives.

The three cars were seized and taken away for technical examination.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy briefed Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern on the incident over the weekend.

Mr Ahern said the threat from dissidents was being taken “very seriously”.

The operation came just a day after Mr Ahern discussed cross-border police co-operation with his Stormont counterpart, Justice Minister David Ford, at a meeting in Carlingford, Co Louth.

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