Calls for extra resources after 60 dissident bomb attacks in 18 months
Calls have been made for the police to be given more resources to deal with the rising dissident republican threat which has seen the number of bomb attacks in Northern Ireland double in a year.
Former Junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson made the call as he pointed to “evidence suggesting they are stepping up their campaign” and concerns over the massive bomb defused in south Armagh on Tuesday.
It is now believed the bomb was planted by Oglaigh na hEireann, described as a 'breakaway from a breakaway' group.
The latest statistics, obtained by the Belfast Telegraph from the PSNI just days after the Oglaigh na hEireann terror plot was foiled, show the number of bomb attacks in Northern Ireland has doubled in the past year.
Dissident republicans are thought to have been behind a total of 60 bombing incidents since April 2008.
Broken down, the figures show that the number of attacks and attempted attacks between April 2008 and March 2009 reached 46 — double the 23 for the same period during the previous year. A further 14 bombing incidents took place in the four months between April and July of this year.
According to the PSNI records, last year was the worst since 2005/06 when 81 bombing incidents were documented. That figure fell to 20 in 2006/07.
An individual bombing incident may relate to one or more explosive devices and includes explosions and defusings.
Last June the Continuity IRA planted a huge land mine beside the road at Rellan, Rosslea. In the same month there was an improvised rocket propelled grenade attack on police officers in Lisnaksea and last October a booby trapped device was left on the Wattlebridge Road on the border south of Newtownbutler.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the police must be given more resources to deal with the growing dissident threat.
“Despite what the former chief constable said about the dissident’s lacking capacity, the evidence suggests they are stepping up their campaign. The bomb at Forkhill is a stark reminder that they have access to explosives and weaponry that can result in atrocities. Thankfully in this case they didn’t.
“It is essential that police have the resources on the frontline to deal with this. It would be crazy to disband the full time reserve and I would hope that the new Chief Constable will immediately rescind that decision. If not, I cannot see that with the increasing threat how they will be able to cope without the specialist military unit particularly intelligence and special forces.”
A breakaway faction of the Real IRA, calling itself Oglaigh na hEireann, is understood to have claimed responsibility for planting the massive device in a telephone call to a local newspaper.
Anti terrorist officers said the bomb which was planted in concealed drums on the northern side of the Louth-Armagh border with the detonation unit hidden in the Republic, was intended to blow up a PSNI patrol.
The home-made bomb, comprised mainly of ammonium nitrate and sugar, was defused by Army ordnance officers at Carrive Road, outside the village of Forkhill on Tuesday.
A bomb disposal team from the Republic’s Defence Forces was involved in examining the command wires, which stretched from the device along the roadside to the townland of Dungooley on the Dundalk to Armagh road.
The alert began on September 1 after Oglaigh na hEireann made three telephoned warnings to local newspapers. Up to 20 families were evacuated from their homes on both sides of the border.
It is believed the bombers belong to a 12-man gang aligned to leading dissident republican Liam Campbell based in the Carlingford area of Co Louth.
In June Campbell was among four men named by the High Court as responsible for the 1998 Omagh explosion that killed 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins.
Why was the massive device not detonated?
Fears of an “own goal” may have deterred dissident republican terrorists from detonating the 600-pound bomb which was defused close to the border on Tuesday.
Ordnance experts have estimated that the massive bomb would have demolished at least one house and possibly killed or injured local people if the terrorists had pressed ahead with their plans to ambush a passing PSNI patrol.
They are examining a number of theories to explain why the planned attack did not go ahead.
Apart from the possibility that the republicans were concerned about the likely fall-off in support if locals became victims of the bomb, detectives are also examining whether the bombers believed they had been compromised as they prepared to strike and decided to abandon the huge device.