Gardai open fire on tiger gang
Officers lucky to be alive after speeding car is driven at them
A MAJOR gangland crime suspect linked to a series of tiger kidnappings was in garda custody last night after two detectives were forced to open fire on a fleeing car driver who attempted to mow them down.
The detectives, from the Garda's Organised Crime Unit (OCU), were described by a senior colleague last night as "lucky to escape with their lives" after jumping out of the way of the speeding vehicle.
The OCU had been targeting suspected members of a crime gang based in west and north Dublin thought to have been involved in a number of tiger kidnaps over the past few years.
As part of an intelligence-led operation, several OCU squads were keeping a close watch on the movements of a couple of suspect cars in the west Wicklow-Kildare area on Sunday.
Following surveillance, the units were ordered to intercept the two cars on the Naas road outside the village of Ballymore Eustace.
The vehicles were brought to a halt but as the detectives approached the suspects, one of the drivers drove at speed towards them. The officers dived out of the way and fired two shots at the vehicle as it sped off in the direction of Naas.
The driver of the other car, a 30-year-old man from west Dublin, was arrested.
In a follow up search, gardai recovered a small handgun at the roadside and several thousand euro in cash.
A number of rounds of ammunition for the firearm were also seized.
The detained man is suspected of being a key player in a gang that has been involved in serious crime, including tiger kidnappings in Dublin and surrounding counties.
'Tigers' involve kidnapping members of the families of employees of financial institutions such as banks, building societies and An Post, and security companies and holding them hostage while the employees are ordered to collect large sums of cash as a ransom for their release.
Last week a gang escaped with £200,000 (€229,131) after a cross-Border incident in which the hostages were left in a house in Co Monaghan. That gang used a white Ford Transit van, that was fitted with false number plates and believed to have been stolen in Co Roscommon. Last night, the suspect detained by the OCU was being questioned by detectives at Naas garda station; he can be held without charge for up to three days. Meanwhile, the seized car -- a navy BMW that was not stolen -- was being checked by members of the garda technical bureau.
A widespread search was also under way in Dublin and the commuter counties for the second car, a gold coloured Toyota Avensis.
Gardai said it was not certain why the suspects were in the Naas-Ballymore area on Sunday evening but one option under investigation was that the firearm was being sold for cash. Following the incident, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan appointed a superintendent from the Midlands to investigate the discharging of shots from officially held firearms.
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission was also notified of the incident and its investigators were at the scene yesterday.
Meanwhile, a five-mile stretch of road between Ballymore and Punchestown Cross was sealed off, pending the conclusion of further inquiries including searches for evidence.