Gardai swoop to foil terror attack in the North
A mortar seized by armed gardai on the M1 motorway was fully primed and destined for an imminent terrorist attack in Northern Ireland.
Senior officers said last night they were satisfied the seizure had foiled a bomb attack on a security target across the Border by the self-styled dissident republican group, Oglaigh na hEireann.
This former faction of the Real IRA is regarded as the most dangerous of three main dissident groups and is one of the prime targets of a major garda anti terror operation, codenamed Designer.
The mortar, which was packed with homemade explosive, had been collected earlier in an old car from a shed at Dromiskin, Co Louth, and was about to be driven across the Border when the vehicle was intercepted by members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
In a follow-up operation in Dromiskin, gardai raided the shed at the rear of a house and found components for another mortar. The bomb parts were heavily wrapped and the garda operation in the shed moved slowly because of concerns that the package might have been booby-trapped. Yesterday afternoon an Army bomb disposal team was called in to examine the find and was escorted by gardai to the site.
The initial seizure followed weeks of investigation involving the Special Branch, national surveillance unit and local gardai from the Louth-Meath division.
Gardai were watching a maroon coloured Peugeot 326 car, with a Northern Ireland registration plate, and the ERU were ordered to intercept it after the vehicle was driven onto the M1 motorway, between junctions 16 and 17, north of Dundalk, around 9.30pm on Tuesday. Two men in their 20s from Armagh city were arrested after they were found in the car. Two other suspects were also held, taking the total amount of arrests to four.
A five-kilometre stretch on either side of the motorway was immediately sealed off by gardai because of the dangers posed by the live device and the Army ordnance experts had to spend four hours working in temperatures of -6C, before they successfully defused the mortar.
Last night Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the gardai deserved great credit for their painstaking work in "nullifying this specific threat".