A dissident republican terror group in Northern Ireland has been plotting a major attack to overshadow President Joe Biden’s visit to the region this week, according to local reports.
The president is due to land in Belfast on Tuesday amid a major security operation.
Officials recently raised the security alert to ‘severe’ from ‘substantial’ as the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom prepare to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which ended decades of violence, known as ‘the Troubles.’
However, dissident terror groups opposed to the peace deal have stepped up activity in recent weeks.
Against that backdrop, the Police Service of Northern Ireland reportedly conducted searches in the city of Derry, one of the focal points of violence during the Troubles.
President Joe Biden is due to arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday evening amid heightened warnings of terror attacks despite a 25-year-old peace deal
A republican mural on a side wall of Saoradh offices in the city center of Derry, Northern Ireland in May earlier this year. The group is close to dissident republicans
An insider told the Belfast Telegraph that the British Army bomb squad was on the scene last weekend.
‘They were looking for parts to make a bomb,’ said the source.
‘The belief is that the New IRA was planning some sort of attack to coincide with Biden’s visit, similar to the mortar attack on the cops in Strabane last November.’
The New IRA formed around a decade ago, from a merger of other dissident republican groups committed to a united Ireland.
Two police officers were wounded in last year’s attack in Strabane, Co. Tyrone.
The renewed violence is a reminder that Biden arrives in a divided Ireland. Although the Good Friday Agreement saw most paramilitary groups lay down their arms and embrace a new powersharing political system, a tiny minority continue to wage war.
The biggest police operation for a decade in Northern Ireland is under way to protect Biden. Some officers will be working 12-hour shifts so they can take on front-line roles.
Biden is expected to take part in events on Wednesday marking the anniversary before crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the force had received ‘strong’ intelligence that dissidents plan to launch terror attacks against officers on the holiday
Biden arriving in County Mayo in 2016 during his last visit to Ireland in an official capacity. The then vice president spent six days in the country, visiting Dublin, Mayo and Louth
He will arrive a day after another flashpoint, Easter Monday. It is a time when republicans, who believe in a united Ireland, mark the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule with parades.
Last week, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the force had received ‘strong’ intelligence that dissidents are planning to launch terror attacks against officers on the bank holiday.
And it comes after MI5 recently raised the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. This followed the gun attack in Co Tyrone on senior detective John Caldwell, who was left with life-changing injuries. Police have blamed the New IRA for the attack.
Biden himself has played down the fear.
The Good Friday Agreement ended decades of violence. This file photo shows the aftermath of a car bomb detonated by the IRA in London in 1973. But dissident republicans have stepped up attacks on police in recent weeks and there is high security ahead of Biden’s visit
When asked by DailyMail.com recently whether the heightened alert would disrupt his travel plans, he said: ‘No, they can’t keep me out.’
He is due to follow Belfast with a visit to Co. Louth, from where his ancestors set sail for America in the mid 19th Century.
Then it is on to the capital Dublin, where he will deliver a speech to the Irish parliament, before traveling to Ballina, Co. Mayo, to visit distant relatives on Friday.
There he will deliver a major set-piece speech before an audience that is expected to number 20,000.
What is the New IRA? How they became Northern Ireland’s biggest terror threat
New IRA claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019
The New IRA is believed to be the largest of the dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland.
It has been linked to a number of murders including those of journalist and author Lyra McKee in 2019, PC Ronan Kerr in 2011, and prison officers David Black in 2012 and Adrian Ismay in 2016.
The New IRA is believed to have been formed between 2011 and 2012 following the merger of a number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA.
The group is strongest in Londonderry and Strabane, with a presence in Belfast, and other pockets in Co Tyrone, and Lurgan in Co Armagh. In August 2020, the alleged leadership of the New IRA suffered a major blow with a series of arrests prompted by an MI5 surveillance operation.
Dissident republican terrorist activity has been at a lower level in Northern Ireland in recent years and security services have secured a number of successes disrupting the activities of terror groups.
Last March, the level of terrorism threat from dissident republicans was lowered from severe to substantial for the first time in 12 years.