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Thursday 21 September 2017

Real IRA supplied pipe bomb that blew little PJ's fingers off

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

THE Real IRA supplied the pipe bomb that exploded in the hand of five-year-old PJ Duffy in Co Wicklow last week, gardai believe. It was sold to criminals who were targeting a man who is no relation of the injured boy or his family.

And, yesterday both gardai and the Defence Forces reiterated their warnings to people to be vigilant about the crude but very dangerous pipe bombs that are being left outside in ever increasing numbers around the country.

In a statement yesterday the Army said: "From a public safety perspective we would always say that if somebody is anyway concerned about a suspicious object, they should stop. Do not approach touch or move the item. Assess why is this item suspicious, quickly note from a distance the features of the item, withdraw from the area and keep others back. If you can still see it, it could still pose a danger to you. Immediately inform the gardai. They will further assess the situation and call for the assistance of the Defence Forces if necessary."

A garda spokesman said: "We would appeal to people to be vigilant and call us immediately if they have any suspicions about objects." He added that the gardai have been mounting major efforts to target the bomb makers and have made 76 arrests, brought charges against 23 people and have 30 files submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions seeking further charges.

Study of the device left at PJ's home in Newtownmountkennedy suggests it is of a type that gardai believe is made by the Real IRA which sells these on to drug dealers and other criminals to use to terrorist people, often those who owe money for drugs. The gardai believe that in this instance a drug dealer living in the area of Newtownmountkennedy was the intended target but that the bomb was left at the wrong location. The man who is the suspected target does not live in the estate.

PJ's mother, Kellyann, and his father Patrick O'Brien have no criminal connections and the family were innocent targets. Local people and gardai were horrified at the indiscriminate nature of the attack as PJ's bicycle and other children's toys were lying in the front garden of the house in Sycamore Drive.

The type of devices being supplied to the criminals are highly unstable and a small amount of movement can set them off.

PJ picked up the device which was lying at the front step of his house and it exploded in his hand.

He suffered burns and other shrapnel injuries and lost a number of fingers. PJ's brother, Oisin and sister Casey, live in the same house.

So far this year the Defence Forces' Ordnance Corps has dealt with 35 "viable" bombs, almost all of which were left outside houses and all potentially lethal. Last year they had 236 calls relating to pipe bombs and dealt with 54 viable improvised explosive devices (IEDs), they said.

A spokeswoman added: "We do not publicly break down figures for hoaxes or false alarms but other callouts would have included what we term conventional munition destruction such as old grenades or artillery ammunition found or washed up or hazardous chemicals that have become unstable in laboratories, schools, etc."

Friends of PJ's family said the boy had his bicycle helmet on and was about to get on his bike and go to school with his mother when the bomb exploded in his hand. Neighbours said PJ was "obsessed" with bicycles.

PJ is being treated at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, where he underwent emergency surgery for his injuries.

Gardai said the bomb was left on the doorstep some time between 9pm on Tuesday and 8am Thursday and gardai last night appealed to anybody who spotted suspicious or unusual activity in the area to contact them at Bray station on (01) 666-5300.

Dissident republicans have become indistinguishable from "ordinary" criminals in Dublin and other areas where they are active like Limerick and Cork, gardai say.

The manufacture and supply of pipe bombs like the one which injured PJ Duffy is a lucrative sideline but their main source of income is extorting money directly from drugs gangs in Dublin. Ordinary criminals in both the Travelling and settled communities are also manufacturing and using pipe bombs.

The dangers of the bombs have been apparent for years and gardai have issued repeated warnings not just to the public but to their own members to be very cautious when confronted with the discovery of suspect devices.

On occasions, gardai have themselves picked up the devices.

Bomb disposal soldiers were also lucky to escape injury on at least two occasions in recent years when bombs exploded as they were being approached.

Sunday Independent

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