Four of Dublin's most feared gangsters were arrested last night in the Fairview and south-inner city areas of the capital after gardai foiled a plot to murder a notorious north- inner city drug dealer who has links to the deadly Hutch mob.
Gardai from the elite Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) seized a handgun and a silencer when they stopped a vehicle at Philipsburgh Avenue during the arrest operation at around 8pm last night.
The suspects are now being held for conspiracy to murder the drug dealer.
Sources said officers had been carrying out surveillance on the four major league criminals aged between 23 and 38 for a number of weeks after becoming aware they had been enlisted to kill the volatile dealer on behalf of the Kinahan cartel.
"Their target was literally only minutes away from death when these fellas were stopped," a senior source said last night.
It is understood gardai used specialist bugging equipment on the phones and vehicles of those involved in the murder plot, which had been ongoing for weeks.
Among the four criminals in garda custody is a 38-year-old south-inner city criminal who was only freed from jail in July.
The Herald revealed at the time that 16 people had to be given security advice because of his release, which was subject to a major garda alert.
This man is already a suspect in a string of gangland murders but has barely any previous convictions, and previously was cleared of charges in a gruesome murder case.
A 23-year-old cousin of this criminal was also arrested in last night's detailed operation.
This young Ballyfermot man survived an assassination attempt when he was shot in the face almost four years ago.
Also arrested is a long-term member of the Kinahan cartel, aged in his mid-30s, who is based in the south-inner city and has previously been arrested in relation to a number of foiled hits over the past decade or more.
Another south-inner city criminal aged in his mid-30s was also arrested in the massive garda bust.
Sources revealed that some of the gangsters were arrested in the Fairview area, while others were picked up on the capital's southside.
It is understood that the level of garda surveillance on them means that officers have large amounts of evidence against all four arrested men.
The intended target is a 28-year-old career criminal living in the Marino area. He was warned by gardai a number of weeks ago about an active threat against his life.
The intended target has more than 30 previous convictions for offences including drug dealing, serious assault and other crimes, and was previously brutally assaulted in Mountjoy Prison by a convicted killer.
Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who is responsible for Special Crime Operations (SCO), said in a statement that the arrests and the associated seizure of a firearm "represents a significant additional achievement in An Garda Siochana's ongoing and unrelenting effort to tackle organised crime and, in particular, the total disregard for human life exhibited by the criminals involved".
Mr O'Driscoll recently revealed that operations undertaken by gardai and the DOCB had resulted in interventions in up to 40 cases where assassinations had been planned by organised crime gangs.
He said additional resources provided to SCO had enabled a crew of dedicated and highly skilled personnel to make significant inroads into tackling the activities of major organised crime groups, through arrests and seizures of high calibre weaponry and significant sums of money.
"I continue to be heartened and assured by the level of absolute commitment and top drawer professionalism and, indeed, bravery exhibited over and over again by the personnel within the Garda Siochana, who are assigned to the difficult tasks associated with the operational activity involved," Mr O'Driscoll added.
He said gardai are engaging in "a very productive manner" with other agencies.