More attacks are being launched in Northern Ireland by Irish Republican Army, than at any time in recent years. Besides, they are increasingly trying to kill police officers, said international experts in a report published Monday.
In 2005, the IRA renounced violence and disarmed, after killing nearly 1,800 people in 27 years. Between 1970 and 1997, they tried to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom (photo).
However, breakaway groups are now trying to keep that campaign of violence alive, and to undermine the central achievement of Northern Ireland’s peace process : a power-sharing government which unites British Protestants with the Irish Catholics of Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party.
According to the report, one splinter group, called the Real IRA, badly wounded a police officer by detonating a bomb under his private car in May. The same group also firebombed four businesses, tried to recruit disillusioned members of the mainstream IRA, and “continued to seek to obtain weapons from associates, criminals and from overseas as well as by manufacturing them itself”.
The report also said that twice in recent months, another group, the Continuity IRA, tried to blow up police patrols near the border. In June, the group planted a remote-controlled bomb under a small bridge, and in August it fired rocket-propelled grenades containing Semtex plastic explosive. The homemade devices failed to detonate fully in both cases.
The British and Irish governments said their security forces were cooperating closely in order to suppress the activities of splinter groups, which are concentrated along the 500-kilometer border that is dividing Northern Ireland, which is a British territory, and the Republic of Ireland.
The Real IRA and Continuity IRA have been especially active since May, said the Independent Monitoring Commission, an international panel that reports to both governments on the activities of Northern Ireland paramilitary groups. The commission includes former chiefs of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Scotland Yard’s anti-terror unit.
The experts said IRA dissidents, those who dissent from the IRA’s conversion to peaceful politics, were behind “a more concentrated period of attacks than at any time since we started to report on them 41/2 years ago”, said the experts.
They added that the two major dissident groups also were meting out so-called “punishment” attacks against criminal rivals and others in the Catholic community.
It was part of the IRA’s 2005 peace commitments to stop such non-lethal, maiming attacks, in which the victim’s limbs typically are broken or shot at point-blank range.
A Sinn Fein member of the Northern Ireland Assembly was one of the dissidents’ recent 13 “punishment” victims, said the experts.