Friday 18 October 2019

Gardai fear lone wolf behind letter bombs campaign

Grudge about Brexit could be motive for attacks, says source

Stock photo
Stock photo
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Gardai suspect a lone wolf who revels in stirring up publicity - rather than dissident republicans - could be behind a letter bomb campaign directed at key British transport hubs last week.

Gardai had originally put dissident republicans at the top of the suspect list. However, now they have broadened out their inquiries to consider whether an individual with a grudge is a more likely suspect, with Brexit a possible motive, according to an informed source this weekend.

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Counter-terrorism police in Dublin and London are working closely to identify those responsible for three letter bombs, at least two of which were sent from Ireland.

Dublin postmarks and An Post stamps were found on at least two of the letters sent to Heathrow and London City airports and to Waterloo train station in London.

One device exploded, causing little damage except to the package that it was in, but the other two failed to detonate and were kept intact.

A fourth parcel bomb was sent to the University of Glasgow, causing students to be evacuated while police conducted a controlled explosion.

Police in Scotland linked the parcel bomb to the devices sent to London, saying there were similarities in the package, its marking and the type of device it contained.

A security source said that as yet no suspects had been identified and no one had claimed responsibility.

British police hoped the packages would yield forensic evidence, such as DNA on the stamps, fingerprints or handwriting leads.

Gardai at the Special Detective Unit are awaiting a forensic analysis of the letter bombs from their UK counterparts.

The so-called New IRA claimed to be behind a similar campaign in Northern Ireland in 2013 and 2014, when crude parcel bombs were sent to British military recruitment centres.

The packages were also sent to the offices of the PSNI's chief constable, and the then Northern Ireland secretary. Coded messages to newspapers claimed that the IRA was behind the attacks.

The purpose of the new letter bomb campaign is more likely to be a publicity stunt, rather than an attempt to cause serious damage or injury, according to security sources who say the devices were crude and would at worst cause minor burns to those handling them.

Dissident republicans, meanwhile, have stepped up their violent campaign, most recently with a car bomb that detonated outside a courthouse in Derry in January. The bomb was claimed by the New IRA.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the UK's senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing, told reporters in Scotland last week that there was still no clear motivation behind the incidents.

"We are talking to our Irish counterparts but at the moment there's nothing to indicate the motivation of the sender or ideology, so I cannot confirm at the moment if it's connected to any Ireland-related terrorist groups," he said.

Police warned that there could be more parcels and urged those handling mail to be vigilant.

Commander Clarke Jarrett, head of the Met's Police Counter Terrorism Command, said staff at transport hubs and mail sorting companies were being urged to report any suspicious packages to police.

Sunday Independent

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