Dissident republican terror attack “highly likely”: Northern Ireland police

Will Kerr, Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable, said on Thursday that the threat from the New IRA, Continuity IRA, and Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) was at present severe, and that a dissident republican terror attack is “highly likely.” Kerr said the main armed republican groups which oppose the ceasefire would aim to ramp up their violence ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising against British rule in 2016. He noted that the republican dissidents had honed their skills and improved their rocket and bomb-making technology by studying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamist insurgents in Iraq.

Northern Ireland’s most senior counter-terrorism officers say that a dissident republican terror attack is “highly likely.” Will Kerr, Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable, said on Thursday that the threat from the New IRA, Continuity IRA, and Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) was at present severe.

The Guardian reports that Kerr issued his warning of an imminent attack by dissident republican groups during a briefing to the Policing Board in Belfast – an organization consisting of politicians and community leaders which monitors the running of the PSNI in the region. The chief constable of Northern Ireland, George Hamilton, appearing alongside Kerr, agreed with Kerr on the danger posed by the three main armed republican groups which oppose the peace process. He said that how the PSNI respond to the threat is “critically important for public confidence.” Kerr and Hamilton noted that the New IRACIRA, and ONH have PSNI officers among their prime targets, but that the threat is not affecting recruitment, with 800 applicants already for a new hiring drive launched on Thursday morning.

Analysts say that PSNI recruits from the Catholic/Nationalist community in Northern Ireland remain high on the dissident terror groups’ hit list. They note that Sinn Fein has given its backing to the PSNI, but that there has been a drop in the number of Catholic/Nationalist recruits to the police. Last year, only 17 percent of those who applied were from Catholic/Nationalist backgrounds. In 2011, Catholic recruit PC Ronan Kerr was killed by republican dissidents who were once members of the IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade. They placed a bomb under his car and it exploded as he got into his car to drive to work from his home in Omagh.

Earlier this year in an interview with the Guardian, Will Kerr said the main armed republican groups which oppose the ceasefire would aim to ramp up their violence ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising against British rule in 2016. Kerr also noted that the republican dissidents had honed their skills and improved their rocket and bomb-making technology by studying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamist insurgents in Iraq.

Kerr estimated that there was a “hardcore of several hundred” hardline republican activists keeping the armed republican campaigns going.

He said there was “certainly an ambition” by dissident republicans dramatically to increase their violence in the lead-up to the centenary of the 1916 rising.

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