Fishery officers held at gunpoint by masked thugs using nets to catch salmon
Fishery officers were held at gunpoint after they confronted masked thugs using illegal nets to catch salmon.
One of the officers received six stitches in a head wound after he was struck with a rock.
Investigating gardaí suspect the men may be former members of the Provisional republican movement.
Inland fishery officers set up a surveillance operation after they spotted the illegal nets in the River Eany in Mountcharles, Co Donegal, on Wednesday evening.
They were lying in wait in a clump of bushes around dawn on Thursday when at least two men, wearing balaclavas and paramilitary-style clothing, arrived on the bank of the river.
They tried to run off when the fishery officers came out of hiding.
During a chase one of the masked men threw a rock at the officers, striking one on the head.
The officers resumed the chase and cornered one of the men, who then produced a handgun and threatened the fishery inspectors.
They forced the officers to hand over their radio sets and surveillance equipment, including night vision goggles, before making their getaway on foot.
The men were forced to abandon a large haul of salmon caught up in the illegal nets.
A senior garda officer told the Irish Independent last night that the officers were badly traumatised by the incident. Gardaí are hoping to interview the officers again over the weekend.
Investigators suspect the men are former Provisional IRA sympathisers. The Provisionals were heavily involved in illegal fishing in the past.
Gardaí said last night that extensive inquiries were under way in the Mountcharles area to identify the masked men.
Natural Resources Minister Denis Naughten described the attack as "outrageous".