Belfast Telegraph

MPs told of thwarted terror plots

British spies have foiled "many" terrorist plots in Northern Ireland in the past six months, the Government has said.

But Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said there were still 13 attacks against "national security targets" in the province since August, including the attempted murder of a soldier.

He told MPs: "While there were fewer attacks in 2011 than in 2010, the intent and capability of dissident republican terrorists remains high. At present, the threat appears to have stabilised as a result of the activities of security and law-enforcement agencies."

He said an attack in Northern Ireland was "highly likely" with the threat rated at severe - one below the maximum. In contrast, the prospect of an atrocity on the mainland was strong, with experts placing the threat level in Britain as "substantial".

Giving his six-monthly update to Parliament in a written statement, Mr Paterson said the 13 attacks included those on police officers as well as small bombs used to target a bank in Newry and explosives aimed at the City of Culture offices in Londonderry.

He added: "The most recent attacks have included the attempted murder of a soldier on January 5, a pipe bomb recovered at the scene of a fire in west Belfast on January 17 and two pipe bombs set off on January 19. Many other potential attacks have been prevented by the actions of security and law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border."

The soldier spotted a bomb underneath the driver's seat inside his UK-registered Vauxhall Astra.

Mr Paterson said the Real IRA, which was responsible for the Omagh bombing in August 1998 which killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, the Continuity IRA and Oglaigh na h'Eireann, remained the most active terrorist groups in the province.

He added: "Both loyalist and republican groups continue to be involved in a wide range of acts of criminality. Both also continue to carry out paramilitary-style assaults and shootings."

But the Conservative Cabinet minister said the loyalist Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force "remain committed to their ceasefires".


From Belfast Telegraph