Belfast Telegraph

PSNI 'thwart four out of every five dissident attacks'

By David Young, PA

Police prevent four planned dissident republican attacks for every one the extremists manage to pull off, a senior police commander has claimed.

The officer leading the fight against the violent renegades said a hardcore of veteran terrorists were currently directing hundreds of active dissidents in their campaign of violence.

Will Kerr, assistant chief constable with the PSNI, added the dissidents' widening attack capabilities, ranging from car bombs to rocket-propelled grenades, were "deeply concerning".

But he stressed that their activities needed to be put in "perspective" and insisted there was no likelihood of a return to the widespread violence seen during the Troubles.

Mr Kerr, who emphasised the need for more community help to thwart the dissident threat, also said there was no evidence that loyalist paramilitaries were planning to re-engage in conflict in response to dissident actions.

The overview from the head of the PSNI's serious crime branch comes amid warnings from the police that dissidents are hell-bent on marking the forthcoming centenary of the Easter Rising by killing security force members in Northern Ireland.

Last week, a 52-year-old prison officer required surgery after a dissident bomb detonated under the van he was driving in east Belfast.

"We stop three or four attacks for every one that gets through," Mr Kerr said. "That is a broad comparator but it is a reasonably accurate one as well.

"We stop the vast majority of attacks. We are not in any way complacent about that and never will be complacent.

"There are a few hundred active DRs (dissident republicans) who are involved in active dissident republican operations.

"But there would be a much smaller number - most of whom would have very significant terrorism experience - who are involved in directing terrorism and in the leadership of these groups as well.

"These DR groups are dangerous, but we need to keep a bit of perspective around them as well.

"They are not in the same scale in terms of numbers and capability as terrorist campaigns we have experienced in the past.

"It's not the same pace of attacks and it's not the same volume of attacks. It's very unlikely and it won't return to the scale and pace of attacks in the past.

He added: "These groups have very limited community support and traction - it just isn't there.

"Despite their protestations and public statements that they do have support, they very clearly do not - certainly not within republican communities.

"They have no strategy, no rationale, no objectives. It's an entirely futile campaign where violence of itself seems to be an end of itself."

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