GARDAI believe they have smashed an organised crime gang responsible for a spate of violent burglaries.
The gang is being blamed for several burglaries in Limerick city and county, Ennis and Shannon regions in Clare, Gort, Co Galway, and in Co Tipperary.
The gang used a stolen Volkswagen GTI Golf to make their getaway after targeting houses and commercial premises in the four counties.
Officers said gang members used violence when they broke in.
They stole the car after burgling a house at Lisnagry, Co Limerick, on January 24 and used it for their getaway at another house break-in at Croom.
As part of Operation Fiacla, the nationwide crackdown on burglary gangs, gardai from Henry Street station in Limerick city, backed up by personnel from Tipperary and Clare, carried out a series of searches on homes in Limerick city and Nenagh yesterday.
They arrested a 17-year-old girl in Nenagh and also detained four men, ranging in ages from 19 to 27.
They were all being held for questioning last night under section 50 of the anti-gangland legislation, the Criminal Justice Act, 2009, and can be detained without charge for up to seven days.
They are being questioned at Henry Street and Roxboro Road stations in Limerick, and at Nenagh, Newcastle West and Shannon. Gardai said their inquiries in recent months also covered a range of other organised crimes. Officers also recovered two other VW cars yesterday, one of which was new, during searches of houses. The vehicles were seized on suspicion of being the proceeds of crime.
The gang has been a prime target of Fiacla operations for several months and is run by two criminal suspects well known to gardai.
In the Lisnagry incident, the thugs disturbed two brothers in their home.
One of the brothers had gone outside to check when he heard noises and was attacked by a burglar, who was armed with a hatchet and hiding in a shed.
During a scuffle the victim managed to knock the burglar to the ground but was set upon by an accomplice. The two burglars demanded the keys to the Golf car but when they realised he did not have them they dragged the other brother out of bed.
After several threats with a hatchet the two men handed over the car keys.
Two days later the gang forced entry to a house at Bawnogue, Croom, and terrorised their victims before making off in the Golf with a haul of property.
The gang are also linked to burglaries at a pizza shop in Raheen, Limerick city, a filling station in Cappamore, Co Limerick, and premises in Gort, Co Galway, Adare and Ballyseedy, Limerick.
One officer said last night: "This is a big breakthrough in our operations against organised crime in this region and follows detailed inquiries over recent weeks".