Entries in IRA (4)


Queen Elizabeth II Shakes Hands with Former IRA Leader

TOBY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images(BELFAST, Northern Ireland) -- In an event that was once considered unthinkable, Queen Elizabeth II shook hands on Wednesday with Martin McGuinness, a former commander of the Irish Republican Army who was once her sworn enemy.

McGuinness, now Ireland's deputy first minister, was a deputy leader of the IRA when it assassinated the Queen's cousin back in 1979.  The paramilitary fought against British rule for three decades.

Wednesday's historic handshake in Belfast is perhaps the symbolic end to one of the longest running sectarian conflicts in history.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Real IRA Warns Queen Elizabeth Against Visiting Ireland

John Stillwell - Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A splinter IRA group has issued a warning in advance of Queen Elizabeth's upcoming visit to Ireland, calling the queen a "war criminal" and saying it will take steps to make sure that she gets the message that she is "not wanted on Irish soil."

A man wearing a ski mask, a beret and a green military outfit delivered the message during an Easter Sunday rally at a cemetery in Derry, Northern Ireland, less than a week before the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, Elizabeth's grandson. He claimed to be a member of Oglaigh na hEireann, a name used most recently by a faction of the Real IRA, one of several splinter groups that reject the Irish peace process and have claimed credit for a recent uptick in political violence.

"Oglaigh na hEireann urge all self-respecting Irishmen and women to resist the upcoming insult that is the visit of a British monarch to Irish soil," the man told the crowd in a seven-minute speech. "The queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen class that act as her cheerleaders get that message." "Gombeen" is an Irish term that means profiteer or moneylender. Elizabeth is scheduled to visit the Republic of Ireland for three days in May. The masked man condemned the Irish peace process and threatened the further killing of police officers. A 25-year-old police officer, Constable Ronan Kerr, was killed earlier this month by a car bomb in Omagh, Northern Ireland. "Those who think they are serving their community are in fact serving the occupation," said the man, "and will be treated as such."

He closed by vowing that that "the IRA, in cooperation with others, will continue to resist the occupation to the best of our ability. ... Victory to the IRA!"

The traditional, or Provisional, IRA, has declared an end to armed struggle, but several dissident Irish Republican groups like the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA have mounted a new campaign of political violence in recent years, with more than 40 significant attacks in 2010. Experts say the resurgent Irish Republican groups also want an attack inside England to demonstrate their strength.

Senior British security officials told ABC News there is "concrete intelligence" that the groups have been trying to move operations beyond Northern Ireland to London. MI5, the security agency in charge of countering domestic terrorism in Britain, has recently increased surveillance of suspected Irish terror leaders, shifted resources from Al Qaeda to the Irish groups and raised the threat of Irish-related terrorism from moderate to substantial.

Concern has also been heightened with the upcoming Royal Wedding, which has captured the world's attention and could be an attractive target for terror attacks, say experts.

"I think there's no doubt the dissidents have the intent, and they are increasingly showing they have the capability," said Martyn Frampton, a professor at Queen Mary University of London and author of "Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism." "If you put those two things together, you do have a very serious threat."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


IRA Splinter Groups: More Attacks, Better Bombs

Officers honor the life of Constable Ronan Kerr, a policeman who was killed by a car bomb in Beragh, Northern Ireland. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Forty significant terror attacks against national security targets, including bomb blasts and shootings. More than 130 attempted bombings and 200 other incidents involving shootings, sectarian violence and threats against the police and the military.

That was Northern Ireland in 2010, not 1970.

That was the work of splinter Irish Revolutionary Army groups. It took place even as Gerry Adams, leader of the political party associated with the old Provisional IRA, Sinn Fein, held elective office in Northern Ireland. Even as Martin McGuinness, once a military leader of the "Provos," sat as the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

With national and international attention focused on al Qaeda, little has been written or broadcast in the U.S. about the re-emergence of Irish terror, but IRA splinter groups that reject the peace process are intent on a renewed campaign of violence. Irish Republican violence has reached levels not often seen since the Troubles, a 30-year era of sectarian strife that ended with the "Good Friday" peace agreement of 1998.

British authorities admit they underestimated the Irish. As recently as 2007, they had viewed the terror groups as a violent handful with little to no political support. "At that point," said Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, Britain's counterintelligence service, in a 2010 report, "our working assumption was that the residual threat from terrorism in Northern Ireland was low and likely to decline further as time went on and as the new constitutional arrangements there took root."

"Sadly, that has not proved to be the case," said Evans. "On the contrary, we have seen a persistent rise in terrorist activity and ambition in Northern Ireland over the last three years."

Today, multiple British political, intelligence and law enforcement sources tell ABC News, there are about 600 members of the Real Irish Revolutionary Army, the Continuity Irish Revolutionary Army and other emerging splinter groups.

The threat from these newly invigorated groups led British authorities to raise the threat level from Irish-related terrorism in the U.K. from moderate to substantial.

With the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton just weeks away, and an Olympics in the summer of 2012 that will be attended by hundreds of thousands, British authorities are very concerned.

ABC News has learned that British officials have concrete intelligence that the terrorists want a strike in London in order to show their strength.

While there is no evidence that they seek an attack on the Royal Family, there is evidence that some members of the terror groups are inside England. And while British authorities don't think them capable of a sustained terror campaign, they do rate them capable of attacks.

In Ireland, bomb attacks and shootings attributed to them in the past two years have killed soldiers and police officers.

The newest wave of violence began with the March 2009 attack on a British Army barracks in Northern Ireland that killed two soldiers. The Real IRA claimed credit for the deadliest Irish Republican attack in more than a decade. Just two days later, the Continuity IRA took credit for the shooting death of a police officer in Craigavon.

Earlier this month, authorities blamed Irish Republican dissidents for the assassination by car bomb of a 25-year-old Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland.

The abilities of a few hundred terrorists, however, are a far cry from the estimated 10,000 soldiers that passed through the IRA at the height of the Troubles, and the violence is unlikely ever to rise to pre-1998 levels. With Libya providing arms and explosives, the IRA was a force to be reckoned with, and at least 3,000 people, including police officers, soldiers, militants and civilians, died in the violence.

To give an idea of its former strength, when the Provisional IRA decommissioned its arsenal in 2005, published reports listed its armory as including 1,000 rifles, three tons of Semtex plastic explosive, more than 20 heavy machine guns, flamethrowers, shoulder-fired missiles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and plain old handguns.

The British threw heavily armed troops, commandos, and counter-terror teams at the IRA, deploying forces in both Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. There were as many as 17 separate explosive ordinance teams operating in the North alone.

But despite a terrorist operational tempo that has escalated from 22 successful bomb blasts in 2009 and 40 attacks in 2010, the explosives ordnance teams in Northern Ireland are now hard-pressed to keep up. In recent months, there were just two teams operating. In one instance, the British had to send a single technician to defuse a bomb, a heroic gesture not seen since the Blitz.

MI5 assumed responsibility for British national security intelligence efforts in Northern Ireland in 2007, and in the past 18 months has had to quickly redeploy assets from the already thinly stretched teams investigating terror from within the U.K.'s Muslim population, including al Qaeda-linked cells based in London.

The security service and police have executed hundreds of raids in an effort to stymie attacks from the thousands of primarily U.K.-born Islamist terrorists, according to a document leaked to the British press in March 2011.

Now a stepped up pace of raids and investigations is underway against the Irish terrorists. Yet persons familiar with both the current splinter groups and the traditional IRA say that the current groups' capabilities are exaggerated by British counterintelligence and Irish authorities and that the members cannot operate outside of Northern Ireland. "All they are capable of is getting arrested," one official told ABC News.

But the troubling news continues to mount. The bombs are becoming more sophisticated, including a new style of mortar seized recently that can launch an explosive device more than 300 yards.

There is also evidence that all that is old is new again. Youths lured by the romance of terror and too young to recall the violence and long prison sentences of the Troubles may be linking up with the terror groups -- but so, apparently, are some older members of the traditional IRA who remember the Troubles but remain committed to armed revolution.

In one instance, the charge placed inside a large fertilizer-based bomb had a powder so pure it could only have been derived from Semtex of the kind that came out of Libya in the 1980s. Indications are that it came from a stash that had been put aside by the Provisional IRA before the process of disarmament that was supposed to lead to a lasting peace.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Brits Worry Irish Terrorists May Target Prince William, Kate Middleton

Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The wedding next week of Prince William and Kate Middleton presents a tempting target for a small group of resurgent Irish terrorists responsible for more than 40 significant terror attacks over the last year, senior British security officials tell ABC News.

While there is no specific threat of any organized plot against the wedding, officials say there is "concrete intelligence" that one Irish group, calling itself the Real IRA, has been trying to move its operations beyond Northern Ireland to London.

"It is fair to assume that people are worried about an attack on the mainland," said Mark Hamilton, chief superintendent of the police service in Northern Ireland.

The British officials in charge of countering domestic terrorism, MI-5, have recently increased surveillance of suspected Irish terror leaders, shifted resources from al Qaeda to the Irish groups and raised the threat level of Irish-related terrorism from moderate to substantial.

"There is a massive effort by the intelligence services and the police to track these people down," said superintendent Hamilton.

Largely unnoticed outside of the United Kingdom, splinter groups of Irish Republican militants have increasingly ignored the peace agreement reach 13 years ago this week that was meant to end IRA violence.

"I think these people would have no compunction at all about carry out an attack, if they could, on an event like the royal wedding," said Professor Martyn Frampton, a history lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of a new report, "The return of the Militants: Violent Dissident Republicanism."

"Attacks on the mainland, particularly here in London, I think, remain the holy grail for these organizations," said Frampton in an interview broadcast Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America.

"They would say it is an opportunity to target the British establishment," Frampton added.

Security officials say there are several splinter Irish groups that continue to target police officers and other targets that symbolize their perceived enemy: British rule of Northern Ireland.

Security officials in England and Ireland tell ABC News they believe there are about 600 members of the real IRA and related splinter groups including the Continuity Irish Revolutionary Army.

The groups have demonstrated an ability to gather powerful weapons and have displayed a surprising skill in making new kinds of bombs, officials told ABC News.

Most troubling, officials say, is the use of rocket or mortar launchers capable of sending an explosive device of 40 pounds over security walls more than 300 yards in the distance.

Police have seized large quantities of high explosive and weapons in recent raids, according to police superintendent Hamilton.

"When people have that type of weaponry in communities, then the intention clearly is to cause devastation to somebody," he said.

Most recently, a 25-year-old Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland, Ronan Kerr, was killed by a booby-trap bomb hidden in his car in the village of Omagh, outside Belfast.

That device, ABC News has learned, appears to have been composed of just a few ounces of powerful plastic explosive placed in an aerosol can affixed under the officer's car.

The Irish terrorists have a long record of attempting attacks on the royal family.

Prince William's parents, Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana, were targeted by an IRA bomb in 1983, before they were married, as they attended a London concert of the Duran Duran group.

In 1979, an IRA bomb killed Lord Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin and a mentor to Prince Charles.

The resurgent groups, while smaller in number and enjoying substantially less popular support, has similar ambitions, said Professor Paul Bew, a professor of politics at Queen's University in Belfast and a recognized expert on Irish dissident violence.

"It must be the ambition to repeat some of the dramatic explosions that happened, for example, in London during the IRA campaign," Bew told ABC News.

"They are a much less potent force, but they can do it," he said. "And therefore everybody has to take on board the fact that there is something new in play here."

And Bew says because the group, in fact, has less popular support, they may feel more emboldened in their targeting.

"They would not be constrained by a view which said' that's going too far,'" said Bew. "They're more of a wild car, they're more unpredictable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio