Gardai foil dissident bomb plot
Detectives swoop on explosives factory hidden in farmhouse
Gardai have foiled plans by dissident republicans to mount a series of bomb attacks in Northern Ireland.
After a major intelligence-gathering operation, detectives from the Special Branch swooped on a farmhouse, which had been converted into a bomb-making factory by the renegade republicans.
Anti-terrorist officers said last night they believed the explosives were being made for the Oglaigh na hEireann faction, which is led by a close associate of jailed Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt.
Officers found more than 200kg of ground fertiliser, which was being readied for use in a huge bomb.
They also discovered an improvised mortar bomb, which contained some homemade explosive but was not primed for immediate use, and a metal launcher tube.
The fertiliser had been put into a number of bags but had not been mixed with the other components necessary to turn them into bombs.
Gardai said last night that the material was likely to have been used for a series of mortar attacks on security force targets in the North but said it could also have been readied for a massive bomb attack.
Inquiries were under way last night to establish if the find was linked to another bomb component find at the M1 motorway in Co Louth a couple of months ago.
The latest find was made during a search of a farmhouse and outhouses near the Border at Hackballscross, Co Louth, on Saturday.
Gardai arrested two men in their 50s at the scene.
They were being held for questioning last night at Balbriggan and Drogheda garda stations. This brings the number of suspected dissidents arrested by the gardai to eight during a six-day period.
The other six -- suspected members of the rival faction of the Real IRA -- were arrested following another lengthy garda operation against subversives operating in the border region.
The bomb-making find came after detailed inquiries by the Special Branch in Co Louth and they were backed up on Saturday by the Emergency Response Unit, personnel from the crime and security branch and local gardai in Louth and Meath.
After the bomb components were uncovered, gardai called in an Army bomb disposal team, who spent more than six hours at the scene before declaring it safe.
The arrests were made as part of Operation Designer, which has been under way for the past two years.