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Special forces are 'tracking dissidents across Belfast'

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 19/10/2015

Dissident republicans believed to be behind two recent murder bids on security forces are being tracked by a special Army unit in Belfast, it has been revealed
Dissident republicans believed to be behind two recent murder bids on security forces are being tracked by a special Army unit in Belfast, it has been revealed

Dissident republicans believed to be behind two recent murder bids on security forces are being tracked by a special Army unit in Belfast, it has been revealed.

It's further understood that undercover members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) are using unmarked cars to monitor the activities of suspects as they travel around the city.

Formed in 2005, the plain-clothed SRR is the special forces unit which supports the Army's elite SAS.

The SRR took part in surveillance of dissident republicans when former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde asked for assistance in 2009.

The regiment was reportedly withdrawn from Northern Ireland in 2011, but called back earlier this year.

The deployment of the SRR in Belfast is viewed as a response to calls to ramp up security operations after two sinister attacks carried out by dissidents in the city over 48 hours.

Three police officers were lucky to escape injury on Friday night when a military-type hand grenade was hurled at them in the Short Strand area of east Belfast.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton branded the attack an "act of madness".

It sparked off a major security alert as apartment owners were evacuated from their homes for several hours.

And last Thursday afternoon, an undercover booby trap bomb planted by the New IRA fell off a soldier's car as he parked outside a girlfriend's house in north Belfast.

It later emerged that the bomb had been kicked by a young boy, unaware of its potential danger.

The PSNI is reported to have set aside its own covert operations in order to avoid a possible accidental 'blue on blue' shootout in the coming weeks.

"The picture on the ground was getting very confusing, there were just too many covert units in the area at the one time," a source told the Sunday Life.

The PSNI has said that it was only through "good fortune" that there have been no fatalities after the two potential murder attacks.

Temporary Superintendent Bobby Singleton revealed how near the three officers came to death or serious injury.

"The device was thrown and landed very close to the officers, basically at their feet," he said.

"Those who carried out this attack showed a total disregard for the safety of the local community and worryingly, for the second time in as many days, young people were in the vicinity at the time of the attack."

He said the "reckless and senseless" attack was being treated as attempted murder and said the assumption was that dissidents were to blame.

"It is only by sheer good fortune that we do not have a fatality on our hands, as this attack occurred in a built-up residential area," he said.

"Police officers serve our communities and work tirelessly to keep them safe."

The SRR is a relatively new Army special forces unit and is tasked with carrying out surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations.

Although little is known publicly about the SRR, it is believed to have around 150 operatives and works both nationally and internationally.

According to the website Elite UK Forces, the SRR is based alongside the SAS at RHQ Credenhill, near Hereford.

It has attracted some controversy for its operations, particularly as operatives were said to have been involved in the shooting of Jean Paul de Menezes at Stockwell underground tube station on July 22, 2005.

The innocent Brazilian was shot dead after being mistaken for a terrorist in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings.

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