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Monday 19 February 2018

Ring of steel to protect queen in massive security operation

Tom Brady and Don Lavery

A series of military joint task forces, involving land, air and sea services, are to be deployed to protect Queen Elizabeth II during her four-day visit later this month.

An estimated 2,000 troops will help secure her safety during her busy itinerary in the east and south of the country.

Although An Garda Siochana will be the lead agency in the security operation, Army, Air Corps and Naval Service personnel will carry out key tasks before and during the visit.

Defence Force chiefs last night put the final touches to their plans, although they are awaiting a final decision on whether specialists from the elite Army Ranger Wing, such as snipers and surveillance experts, will be involved.

A €4m air defence umbrella of missiles and guns will protect a Bae 146 from the royal flight as it lands at Baldonnel military airbase on May 17.

Troops in armoured vehicles will ring the perimeter of the aerodrome, while Air Corps PC-9 planes will patrol an air exclusion bubble overhead.

The Naval Service will protect the estuaries and waterways around Dublin and Cork.

Engineers from the Army's specialist search teams will perform a series of sweeps of sites to be visited by the queen, including the Farmleigh residence in the Phoenix Park in Dublin and the city's Garden of Remembrance.

An Istar (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) company, similar to one deployed with the Nordic battlegroup, will also be available. It will operate in specialist armoured vehicles.

Their sophisticated equipment includes real-time surveillance systems, as well as unmanned aircraft or drones.

The Ranger Wing and specially trained riot-control troops will also be on stand-by.

Meanwhile, detailed arrangements for the visit of US President Barack Obama have yet to be finalised as they are constantly under review by gardai and Defence top brass, in liaison with US Secret Service agents, in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Military intelligence is continuing to work with anti-terrorist detectives from the Special Branch Middle Eastern desk in monitoring the activities of a dozen hardcore suppporters of the terror groups affiliated loosely to the al- Qa'ida network, and up to 60 sympathisers.

But anti-terror experts are satisfied there is no one active here and that the local sympathisers are used to provide logistical support, such as fundraising, securing false passports and identity documents, and helping to locate safe havens for terrorists based elsewhere in Europe.

Detectives have also stepped up surveillance on known dissident republicans.

Irish Independent

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