Bomb factory swoop halts gang bloodbath
Gardai smashed plans for a major upsurge in gang violence in Dublin yesterday after uncovering a pipebomb factory in a fourth-floor apartment.
A spate of bomb attacks was intended to herald a fresh wave of vicious feuding between dissident paramilitaries and city crime gangs.
Five suspected members of the renegade republican group, the INLA, were in custody last night after the Special Branch operation.
The five are thought to be linked to alleged INLA leader Declan Duffy, who is locked up and awaiting trial.
The early morning raid on the apartment at The Crescent, Park West, in west Dublin, followed a detailed investigation into the activities of subversives by the Special Branch and members of the national surveillance unit.
Inside the apartment, detectives found component parts for up to half-a-dozen pipe bombs. These were being examined last night by forensic experts from the Garda technical bureau in the Phoenix Park.
The haul included explosive powder, pipes, batteries, clocks and other accessories for improvised devices.
Four of the men were arrested inside the apartment and the fifth was detained outside during the swoop by heavily armed detectives.
Gardai said that three of the suspects, all in their 20s, are from Dublin. Another is from Monaghan and the other from Belfast.
They were being held for questioning last night at Dun Laoghaire and Shankill garda stations under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and can be detained without charge for up to three days.
Senior anti-terrorist officers are satisfied that the pipebombs were about to be used by the dissident group against members of one of the rival crime gangs currently feuding with the INLA.
One officer said last night: "It looked like the gang warfare involving the dissidents was about to erupt again on the streets of Dublin and the discovery of the bomb parts disrupted the plans.''
Gardai are also aware that members of the INLA have been using their expertise to manufacture devices and supply them to criminal gangs operating across the capital.
Detectives forced their way into the apartment at around 2am and surprised the occupants.
An Army bomb disposal team was on the scene at 2.25am and gave the all-clear after an examination lasting more than an hour.
The INLA has become mainly a criminal outfit in the past few years and some of its members have been heavily involved in drug trafficking and extortion.
Associates of Duffy have been key targets for a special garda team, led by a detective superintendent, which has been investigating the spate of bomb attacks in the past three years in a bid to source the manufacturers and narrow the list of gangs using the devices.
Most of the devices are crudely manufactured and largely unsophisticated and for explosive content the makers depend mainly on fireworks or shotgun cartridges.
Sometimes, nails are added for fragmentation to cause potentially greater injury and shock when a device explodes.
Last May, gardai found a hide being used by dissidents to stash pipebombs on rough ground in the south inner city and recovered a well-constructed device.
A suspect, who had been formerly associated with the Continuity IRA, was questioned about the find.
The previous month, gardai discovered a cache, which included parts for 20 homemade devices, at the rear of a pub in Tallaght after an anonymous tip-off.
Most of the bomb attacks since 2006 have been linked to local gang feuding, but others have been used by the INLA to intimidate businessmen and other potential extortion victims.
Meanwhile, Declan Duffy remains in jail after being refused bail on a charge of membership of an illegal organisation.
Duffy (34) is a native of Armagh city but has an address at Hanover Street West, in Dublin. He was sentenced to nine years' jail by the Special Criminal Court in 2000 for possession of firearms and false imprisonment.
This related to an incident which became known as the Ballymount bloodbath, when an INLA member was killed during a fight with a Dublin crime gang.