The Irish Examiner understands there is Garda intelligence that an assault by the Hutch outfit on Kinahan targets is at an “advanced stage”.
And it emerged a submachine gun was one of the loaded weapons in a cache of 15 firearms, along with 1,300 rounds of ammunition, seized in a Kinahan arsenal at an industrial unit in west Dublin on Monday.
The loaded weapons were being moved for what gardaí believe was an “imminent attack” on Hutch targets, prompting intervention by the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau which was conducting surveillance on the warehouse.
These developments came as the bureau seized up to €500,000 from the Kinahan cartel, including more than €300,000 in cash and in the region of €150,000 in frozen bank accounts.
This is the third major blow against the cartel in less than five days, with the seizure of almost two tonnes of cannabis, with a final street value of €37m, in Dublin Port last Friday.
Senior gardaí said that “pressure was mounting” on the cartel leadership, and there are expectations that more operations are to come.
Sources said they were “constantly watching” senior members of the cartel and associates of the Hutch outfit and operating on intelligence, gleaned from covert surveillance and criminal informants.
The firearms seizure is fuelling fears of further bloodshed as with the approaching anniversary of the Regency attack by the Hutch gang on February 5.
David Byrne, from Crumlin, south Dublin, was shot dead in that attack, while Daniel Kinahan, elder son of cartel boss, Christopher, managed to escape.
That murder resulted in a campaign of assassinations by the Kinahan cartel, resulting in the killing of seven people in Ireland and another in Spain.
“The Kinahan cartel are always planning something,” said a senior security source. “The anniversary of the Regency is coming up and the cartel will mark that in some way.”
Another senior garda source said: “The fear is with the anniversary approaching that one side or the other, or both, will carry out some form of spectacular.”
Four people were arrested in relation to the firearms and cash operation, including two senior members of the Kinahan cartel.
One man, in his 50s, is considered a “significant player” in the cartel hierarchy, who traditionally “never gets his hands dirty”.
A second individual, from Crumlin, is very close to a top cartel lieutenant, who lives in Britain, and was previously arrested in connection with the seizure of a rocket launcher.