07-28-2008, 11:03 AM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
MI5 targets dissidents as Irish terror threat grows
Quote:The security services are picking up more suspicious activity from Northern Ireland's dissident republicans than from any other radical group in the UK, the Guardian has learned.
Up to 60% of all the security services' electronic intercepts - phonetaps and other covert technical operations - have come from dissidents, despite the threat posed by hundreds of suspected Islamist extremists on the mainland.
MI5 is directing its attention to a hardcore of republicans, fearing they are determined to destabilise the peace process.
Sir Hugh Orde, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, has separately confirmed that the dissident threat is the highest since he took office.
With fears escalating over the intent of republicans opposed to powersharing in the province, security sources have told the Guardian that:
· 80 hardcore dissidents may be plotting terrorist attacks.
· The Real IRA and Continuity IRA's short- term goal is to kill a Catholic police officer in the hope of deterring young Catholics and nationalists from joining the PSNI.
· Dissidents' targets have also recently extended to prison officers.
· Police numbers are so stretched that officers with anti-terrorist experience are being transferred from Greater Belfast - once the crucible of the Troubles - to rural areas.
Orde agreed the threat from the anti-peace process republicans was real despite the arrest of dozens of dissidents. "It is as high as it has been in my time in the service," he told the Guardian. "Significant efforts are ongoing to tackle the threat. The aim where possible, is to arrest those involved, charge them and bring them to court and to date over 30 people have been arrested this year." Support within republican communities for the PSNI was helping in the anti-terror drive, he added.
Irish security sources confirmed the intelligence war was concentrated on counties Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.
One senior Dublin official said: "Their prime targets are Catholic officers who they regard as vulnerable and politically more important in terms of their armed campaign."
He pointed to a relatively unreported landmine attack aimed at killing PSNI officers at Rosslea in Co Fermanagh, near the Irish border, last month as evidence that the dissident threat was the highest since the Omagh atrocity 10 years ago.
The Dublin security official pointed out that the June 14 attempt was the first landmine attack since the Provisional IRA's first ceasefire 14 years ago.
Although officially police have the lead in security policy in the province, MI5 has taken over surveillance operations against dissident republicans. Due to policing reforms the number of special branch anti-terrorist officers has dropped over the last five years. In some areas, such as West Belfast, the number of experienced special branch officers has halved.
Jeffrey Donaldson, a junior Stormont junior minister said he believed the threat from the anti-peace process republicans was extremely high.
Donaldson, who also represents Lagan Valley at Westminster and had two cousins in the police killed during the Troubles, confirmed that the Real IRA and Continuity IRA's target net had widened to include prison officers.
"It's in the nature of terrorism that they will kill anyone but I understand that their principal targets are Catholic members of the security forces ..." the DUP MP said. He said he had been told that a number of Catholic prison officers had been moved out of their homes recently after intelligence indicated they were being targeted for assassination.
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