Fears of violence spreading as dissidents target Provos
Security chiefs fear further violence after dissident terrorists began an orchestrated campaign of intimidation against pro-peace process republicans.
Former Provo bosses have ordered ex-IRA members not to get involved after a series of bomb threats and attacks across the North.
A car belonging to a Sinn Féin councillor in Derry was firebombed early yesterday while a second car belonging to another councillor had its windows smashed.
Police arrested two men, aged 17 and 23, close to the scene.
It followed a paintbomb attack on the Derry home of Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness the day before.
The 90-year-old mother of MEP Martina Anderson, who suffers from Alzheimers, had to be moved from her home in the city after a bomb scare.
A bomb alert at the west Belfast home of party president Gerry Adams was declared a hoax, while the party's candidate in East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald, had a death sympathy card delivered to her home by loyalists.
Security sources say they fear individuals within the main republican movement "won't stand back" if the attacks continue, despite a call from Sinn Féin for attacks to be reported to the PSNI.
"The Provos have been very disciplined over the past few years but there are always a few 'hotheads' who will see a refusal to react as cowardly," said one security source.
"That's the real danger and it is always difficult to counter-act when individuals decide to go their own way on something like this."
He referred to a speech by former British Prime Minister John Major, in Dublin 18 months ago in which Mr Major said Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were risking their lives by pursuing the peace process.
"Let me now say something that may surprise you. Throughout the process, I was acutely conscious that IRA leaders were taking a risk, too: if Albert (Reynolds) and I upset our supporters we might - as Albert put it - be 'kicked out'. That was true but the IRA's supporters were more deadly than our backbench colleagues.
"And their leaders were taking a risk too, possibly with their own lives," the former PM said at the time.
The security source told the Irish Independent: "Rather than recede with time, that risk has gotten greater with time as the Provos have wedded themselves to the PSNI.
"The dissidents know the Provos won't retaliate, but it's a very risky strategy because some Provos won't sit back and let this continue."
However, a former IRA commander in Belfast said he expected the Provisionals to "hold the line" in the face of the attacks.
There is some pressure within Provo ranks to organise public protests against the dissidents, with some suggestions that the homes of dissident republicans should be picketed.
Mr McGuinness called on the communities affected by the attacks to stand up to the dissident gangs.
"This was also an attack on the wider democratic process," said Mr McGuinness after the Derry arson attack.
"It shows the contempt of those behind these attacks for the will of the people.
"I am calling on all the community to defend the progress and gains of the peace process and to reject those intent on dragging us back to the past."