Wednesday 17 January 2018

Security lockdown as PSNI warns of dissident plan to 'attack police and soldiers'

Police forensic experts examine the scene of an under-car bomb that exploded under a van and injured a prison officer in Belfast. Photo: Photopress
Police forensic experts examine the scene of an under-car bomb that exploded under a van and injured a prison officer in Belfast. Photo: Photopress
PSNI assistant chief constable Stephen Martin. Photo credit: David Young/PA Wire
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Dissidents are planning to "attack police and soldiers" for the centenary of the 1916 Rising, a senior PSNI officer has warned.

Gardaí and military chiefs in the Republic are to review security planning for the 1916 centenary commemorations in the wake of yesterday's bomb attack on a prison officer in Northern Ireland.

Dissident republicans are being blamed for planting the bomb under the officer's van and it detonated as he drove to work in Belfast.

The attempted murder prompted PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin to deliver a warning that dissident terrorists were planning to kill police and British soldiers in the North to coincide with the Easter events.

He said that while the level had been placed at "severe" for the past few years, he would currently describe it as at "the upper end of severe".

Mr Martin said his officers would be "culturally sensitive" to any planned centenary events but there were dissident republican groups who wanted to mark the 2016 anniversary in "an entirely more sinister way".

"I believe there are people within dissident republican groupings who want to mark this centenary by killing police officers, prison officers and soldiers," he said.

"I am saying that publicly, I am saying it deliberately, and I am saying I need the help of the community. That is not inevitable, this does not need to happen, but we need the support of the community."

In Dublin, up to 250,000 people are expected to line the streets during planned events.

Gardaí say that an attack on security forces personnel is highly unlikely on this side of the Border.

But they are seriously concerned that the dissidents could try to create disruption by a series of bomb scares or the planting of hoax devices to capture media exposure.

A provisional security blueprint has already been drawn up by senior garda officers to prevent a dissident attempt to disrupt any of the commemorations.

A total of 2,300 serving personnel from the Defence Forces and 400 veterans will march in the parade, which is expected to be watched by a couple of hundred thousand people.

All garda leave will be severely restricted in the run up to the Easter weekend, and preliminary search operations will be carried out along the routes of the main events.

Additional Army bomb disposal teams are being put on stand-by over the weekend while the huge number of armed military personnel taking part in the Dublin event will provide an added dimension to the security.

Garda assistant commissioner in charge of security and intelligence, Mr John O'Mahony has already warned that despite very little public support, the dissident groups posed a very real threat. He pointed out that interventions by the gardaí had thwarted dissident terror plans for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

The victim of yesterday's attack in the North is a 52-year-old married man with adult daughters and he is 28 years in the prison service.

The bomb detonated as he was driving in the Hillsborough Drive area, off the Woodstock Road, in a predominantly loyalist area of Belfast.

Mr Martin said: "The intention of this device was to kill."

Irish Independent

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