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Real IRA crackdown steps up a gear with dawn raids

Nine arrests in Limerick have signalled a nationwide extension of the Garda crackdown on the Real IRA, in the wake of the paramilitary display at the funeral of murdered terror boss Alan Ryan.

The suspects are alleged to be relatively minor figures in the dissident group in the Limerick area and did not include the outfit's senior two activists in the region.

But the dawn swoops marked a new phase in the drive to tackle the Real IRA threat.

The raids followed last month's detention of 17 suspects in Dublin, Meath and Kildare.

The latest swoops focused on homes in the St Mary's Park, Moyross, Kileely and Garryowen areas of Limerick city and the Cappamore, Murroe and Abbeyfeale districts of the county.

More than 50 officers were involved in the intelligence gathering operation under the command of Chief Supt Dave Sheahan, who told the Irish Independent last night that a "significant amount of literature" had been seized.

"This is our response to dissident activity in Limerick city and county," he added.

He said the seized material would now be examined in detail and the outcome of their inquiries would form part of a number of files to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

One of the arrested men is 34, while the remaining eight are aged between 43 and 66.

Three of them are from the same family.

They were being questioned last night at Henry Street, Mayorstone, Roxboro, Askeaton and Newcastle West garda stations.

All nine are believed to have attended Ryan's funeral at Donaghmede on the northside of Dublin last month when a volley of shots were fired over the terrorist's coffin.

The results of the raids will now be linked into the dossier already compiled from Operation Ambience, which was ordered by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to investigate the firing of shots as the coffin was being taken from the Ryan family home to the local church.

Ambience has resulted in the biggest round-up of dissident suspects in years and further raids on the home of suspected members of the dissident faction are expected around the country as anti-terrorist gardai identify and investigate those they believe are connected to the gang.

A similar clampdown is ongoing against members of organised crime gangs, who had been in conflict with Ryan's faction for the past few years over the proceeds of drug trafficking and armed robberies and control of extortion and intimidation rackets.

This feud has also embraced the alleged manufacturers and suppliers of pipe bombs to both sides of the conflict.

Gardai believe that Ryan was shot dead on the orders of a crime gang with links on both sides of the capital.

Belfast Telegraph