Belfast Telegraph

Secret email that warned bombers were eyeing Omagh

FBI spy alerted the intelligence agencies weeks before atrocity

BY ADRIAN RUTHERFORD

This is the secret email which shows intelligence bosses knew that Omagh was a prime target for a terrorist attack – weeks before the Real IRA bomb which devastated the town.

The communiqué from FBI superspy David Rupert warns that dissident republicans are in the final stages of planning a major attack, and identifies Omagh as a likely target.

The confidential memo – obtained by this newspaper – forms a key part of a report commissioned by victims' families who are campaigning for a full public inquiry into the atrocity.

Relatives claim the dossier proves that authorities failed to share vital intelligence which they say could have prevented the bombing.

Although the report was presented to the British and Irish governments more than a year ago, the families have not been told if an inquiry will be held.

Yesterday at a Press conference relatives said they would go to court if their calls were rejected.

It is understood that legal action could begin within weeks.

Relatives have long believed that vital intelligence which could have prevented the massacre was missed by authorities.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aidan in the 1998 massacre, said the lack of answers from the governments was prolonging the families' agony.

Speaking in Omagh yesterday, Mr Gallagher said the report contained substantial intelligence warning that dissident republicans were planning an attack.

However, he said the information was not shared between police forces north and south of the border and intelligence services, including the FBI and MI5.

The report draws on 4,000 emails between Mr Rupert, an American informant who infiltrated the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, and his MI5 handler.

The huge tranche of messages are understood to provide detail on potential planning, locations and personnel for an attack in the weeks leading up to August 1998.

One of the emails identifies Omagh as one of two likely targets, the other being Londonderry

The note is marked secret and dated April 11 1998 – four months before the bombing – and was sent by Mr Rupert to his handlers. It refers to an individual under observation.

"Since he is so involved with the present operation we are speaking of and the last known location of the car (Letterkenny) Derry or Omagh would be 2 suspect viable targets," it states.

"The general mood of the local organization is that they are trying to make a slash so they can attract fall away members from SF and IRA before they go to 32scs (32 County Sovereignty Committee)".

Two other emails, sent in the fortnight before Omagh, refer to a bomb attack in Banbridge on August 1, 1998.

In that incident, a car bomb similar to the one used in Omagh exploded in the town centre, injuring 38 people.

The email, also marked secret and dated August 3, 1998 reveals Mr Rupert has spoken to the gang behind the bombing.

It reads: "A slow night but one thing was confirmed, the bomb on Sat was so to speak one of ours, (CAC) was the words (redacted) used."

A third email reports how the individual who claimed to be involved in the Banbridge bombing was "excited" about something due to happen.

"It sounds like whatever was going to happen was going to happen soon, say maybe like in the next few weeks and it brought him out of a low mood he had been in. He was excited about the conversation," it reads.

Copies of the emails were obtained by the families, and some were used in a landmark civil case against four republicans in 2009.

Mr Gallagher said he was startled by the contents.

"We feel there was an enormous amount of intelligence available – that intelligence was not used properly. As a result of that we have had no convictions," he said.

"It's very damning, and it's a blot on both governments, and for that reason we're calling on both governments to come together and tell the truth, tell what happened on that day."

 

STORY SO FAR

The Omagh bombing was the single worst atrocity of the Troubles. Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died when a 500lb Real IRA car bomb exploded without warning on August 15, 1998. Another 200 were injured, many seriously. No-one has been convicted for the bombing. However, a civil action in 2009 resulted in four men being found liable for the atrocity.

 

PROFILES

MICHAEL GALLAGHER

Michael Gallagher's 21-year-old son Aidan was one of 29 people murdered in the August 1998 Real IRA Omagh bombing.

Mr Gallagher worked alongside his son at the family mechanic business before he was murdered.

He is the spokesman for the Omagh Support and Self Help Group and is the public face of many of the victims of the atrocity and their relatives.

He has tirelessly campaigned for justice, holding politicians and police to account on both sides of the border.

Mr Gallagher has travelled the globe meeting world leaders. In 2002, he was quoted as saying there was such a "deeply-held sense of frustration and depression" among relatives of the victims.

Along with other relatives of victims, he is now calling for a full public inquiry to be held into the murders.

 

DAVE RUPERT

So-called superspy Dave Rupert infiltrated the Real and Continuity IRAs, feeding back information to MI5 and the FBI during his time in Ireland between 1996 and 2001.

Hailing from upstate New York, the trucker moved to Chicago where he mixed with the republican-sympathising Irish Freedom Committee (IFC) until he was recruited by the FBI around 1995.

He first headed for Bundoran, Co Donegal, where he befriended republican and publican, Joe O'Neill.

Rupert later ran a bar in Leitrim which he offered to the Continuity IRA for meetings. It is thought he had bugged the building.

He told MI5 in April 1998 that republican dissidents were going to bomb "Derry or Omagh" and that he had accompanied them on a scouting expedition.

Three suspects were arrested but were later released.

 

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