Pipe bombs used to put pressure on struggling debtors
UNSCRUPULOUS money lenders are hiring criminals to carry out pipe-bomb attacks on recession-hit customers who are falling behind in their payments.
The use of homemade devices to put pressure on people in debt is set to increase, according to gardai. Already, there have been a couple of incidents in Dublin in recent months.
'Pipes' and other homemade bombs -- known as improvised explosive devices -- are readily available and are regularly used in gang feuds and as weapons of threat or extortion.
But gardai say there are now indications that shady businessmen who are owed money are turning to criminals to exert pressure on the debtors.
One officer said last night: "We expect this type of attack to increase in more affluent districts as the recession bites further and more sinister tactics are used to frighten people into paying up."
Almost all of the pipe bombs recovered in the past couple of years have been crudely constructed but there is some evidence recently that the manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated.
They appear to be mainly acquiring their knowledge on how to make them from the internet, where training manuals on constructing homemade bombs are easily sourced.
A small group of Real IRA members is active in the use of explosive devices in the greater Dublin area, particularly on the northside, but anti-terrorist officers believe they are all involved in criminality and are using their dissident connections to give them "street cred" with the other gangs.
However, one RIRA bomb that exploded last August was more expertly constructed and was victim-activated.
The attack was aimed at former garda informant Paddy Dixon, who was lucky to escape serious injury after he spotted the bomb, which was detonated when he opened the front door of his home in Navan, Co Meath.
Another victim-activated device was used in an attack in Longford but this was not terrorist-related.
The attacks have increased significantly in the past few years. So far this year, Army bomb-disposal teams have responded to a record 222 callouts, compared with 198 for all of last year and 98 in 2007.
A breakdown of the statistics shows that the ordnance officers dealt with 52 viable devices up to yesterday. 'Viable' means they were ready for detonation or had already exploded. This compares with a total of 18 for 2007.
Most of the devices are not linked but evidence has emerged of some similarities with an analysis indicating that around 10 of them were the work of one bomb maker while there were also other smaller groups of up to six similar devices.
Gardai believe that Travellers, who have become immersed in drug trafficking and other criminal activity, are strongly involved in the manufacture of pipe bombs and other improvised devices.