Shot man was first victim of new hard-line republican group

A man who was shot dead just yards from a church in Ireland three months ago was the first victim of the hard-line republican group Oglaigh na hEireann, it was revealed today.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) claimed members of the small dissident republican group crossed the border to murder Andrew Burns, 27, from Strabane, Co Tyrone.

The report also confirmed that Real IRA members were behind attempts last year to murder two off-duty Police Service of Northern Ireland officers in Derry and Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

In February Mr Burns was driven over the border from Strabane to Donnaghloop, Castlefin in Co Donegal, where he was shot and his body thrown from a car.

According to the IMC, Oglaigh na hEireann also carried out a failed pipe bomb attack on Strabane’s police station last December.

The group attempted to recruit and train new members, obtain weapons, raise funds and exiled one member last August for failing to follow instructions.

“Members continued to be involved in a wide range of serious criminal activity,” the commission said.

“Oglaigh na hEireann thus remains a continuing and serious threat including to the lives of members of the security forces.”

The commission said at least two factions had emerged within the Real IRA, with evidence that some members were beginning to realise the futility of their actions.

Nevertheless the organisation showed how active and dangerous it could be by launching gun attacks on the two police officers last November in Derry and Dungannon.

RIRA was also involved in a range of criminal activity on both sides of the border such as drug dealing, smuggling, fuel laundering and robbery.

The group sought to enhance its terrorist capability, recruiting new members and training them in new skills involving weapons and explosives. It tried to raise funds but an attempt to acquire weapons in Lithuania was disrupted in January.

“The factions of RIRA were active and dangerous during the six months under review,” the IMC said.

“It was also determined to enhance its capacity, as the elaborate plans to secure weapons overseas indicated. It remains a threat and is capable of extreme violence.”

During the six-month period under review between September and February, the report noted another dissident group, the Continuity IRA, carried out a bomb attack on a war memorial in Newry, Co Down, and was involved in the extensive targeting of members of the security forces.

It also sought to recruit and train new members, raise funds and purchase weapons and remained involved in a range of criminal activity from operating brothels, drug dealing and extortion to robbery, smuggling and fuel laundering.

Some of these crimes were carried out in conjunction with the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

The INLA was not as active as it had been previously but focused mainly on crime. It undertook targeting and maintained a desire to launch attacks.

The commission noted the emergence of new republican splinter group in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast calling itself the Irish Republican Liberation Army.

The new dissident group threatened Sinn Féin members involved in District Policing Partnerships, had access to a small quantity of arms and was mainly criminal in nature.

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