‘New IRA’ claims bomb that injured Belfast prison officer

A group calling itself the New IRA has claimed a bombing which injured a prison officer.

‘New IRA’ claims bomb that injured Belfast prison officer

It is a small but potentially deadly organisation which has been linked to the killing of a police officer and a prison warder.

With the centenary of the Easter Rising approaching later this month, senior police officers have said they are concerned that dissidents opposed to the peace process may attempt to hijack the anniversary by launching an attack.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recruit Ronan Kerr, 25, died in a booby-trap car bomb in Omagh in Co Tyrone in 2011. Prison officer David Black was shot dead as he drove to work on the M1 in Co Armagh in 2012.

While the actions of the violent extremists remain sporadic and the number involved low, last week’s incident in east Belfast has provided another stark reminder of their capacity and intent. Police believe the threat posed to members of the security forces in Northern Ireland is severe.

The New IRA is a dissident group which opposes Sinn Féin and its peace strategy.

It is said to consist of individuals from Omagh, Coalisland, and the Toomebridge and Ballyronan areas along the shore of Lough Neagh, and in counties Monaghan and Louth, with their actions directed from Belfast.

In 2014, Gavin Coyle was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for possession of explosives and firearms with intent to endanger life and membership of a proscribed organisation — the IRA.

Coyle was arrested as part of the investigation into the murder of Constable Kerr.

Police had raided industrial units near Coalisland in Co Tyrone and found one of the largest caches of weapons and explosives in Northern Ireland for many years. The New IRA also claimed it murdered Northern Ireland prison officer Mr Black. He was driving to work at Maghaberry Prison, Northern Ireland’s high security jail, when he was attacked and killed.

It followed a dispute at the prison, where a number of dissident inmates were held.

MI5, responsible for national security in the North, has said dissidents seek to destabilise Northern Ireland through the tactical use of violence, targeting members of the police service and other security personnel as well as trying to cause disruption and economic damage.

“They have very little public support. However, although security force pressure is constraining the threat and all dissident republican groups are under pressure, some attacks continue to get through,” he said.

“There were 16 national security attacks in 2015 and the threat to life posed by dissident republicans persists.”

Police have not confirmed whether Semtex explosive was used in Friday’s attack, but the group’s statement claimed it contained a quantity of Semtex and a commercial detonator. Semtex was supplied by Libya to the Provisional IRA in the 1980s during the Troubles.

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