The dissident terror group Oglaigh na hEireann has revealed more details on the deadly double-ambush it planned in north Belfast.
And this newspaper now has more information on the desperate scramble for information, which prompted police to contact a key link-man in a so-called ‘back channel’ leading to the dissident leadership.
In a week-long security operation two devices were discovered.
Now, full details of the plot are emerging.
Last Sunday the bombers came close to triggering a shrapnel |device as police responded to a call for help at a movie rental store on the Antrim Road.
From a vantage point the terrorists watched as the officers arrived and stood very close to the bomb — attached to a command wire and firing pack just yards away.
But the bombers were forced to abort the planned attack when a woman approached the police.
The presence of the woman, understood to live in Ardoyne, may well have saved the lives of the officers.
Oglaigh na hEireann claims to have disarmed the deadly device by “unhooking” the firing pack and removing it from the scene.
In a follow-up security operation after several “vague” telephoned bomb warnings, the PSNI turned to the secret back channel to try to pinpoint the precise |location of the device.
This newspaper understands that on Tuesday they approached a man — a key link in a hidden communications channel involving go-betweens, the dissident groups, British and Irish government officials and the police.
That same day, the link man met a senior Oglaigh na hEireann leader in Belfast — a member of the group’s so-called Army |Council. This newspaper understands he was given an exact location for the bomb — detail |described as “X marks the spot”, and that information was then passed to the PSNI.
The next day, Wednesday, police confirmed the bomb had been found.
But Oglaigh na hEireann did not disclose information on the second device — the Irish army grenade.
“The game was still on,” one source commented — a deadly game with a killing mission.
That grenade had a specific purpose.
Had the first bomb been detonated, and had the bombers been pursued at the scene, the trip-wire device was designed to catch the security forces in a second ambush.
A similar Irish army grenade was used in a previous planned booby-trap attack at a PSNI station at Crumlin in County Antrim.
Oglaigh na hEireann is now considered the most dangerous of the dissident groups — and there are grave concerns about how it is building its expertise and capacity.