Defendant planned spectacular attack, court told

Alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt wanted his planned new terror organisation’s first strike to be bigger than the Omagh bomb atrocity, a court heard today.

Alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt wanted his planned new terror organisation’s first strike to be bigger than the Omagh bomb atrocity, a court heard today.

McKevitt had also recruited an ex-French Foreign Legion weapons expert as a sleeper agent who could be used if a plot was hatched to murder British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it was claimed.

The allegations were made at the Special Criminal Court by FBI agent David Rupert, the key prosecution witness in the trial of the man accused of masterminding the dissident republican group behind the August 1998 Omagh attack which killed 29 people and two unborn babies and injured hundreds more.

The spy told how McKevitt, 53, planned to set up a new terror outfit consisting of members of the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army and some disaffected Provos.

Another republican involved in the scheme, Michael Donnelly, had suggested shooting a police officer, Mr Rupert claimed.

But he said: “Mr McKevitt told me that wasn’t going to be a big enough hit in the new grouping of the organisation.

“He wanted it to be spectacular and overshadow Omagh.”

McKevitt, of Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth, is the first person in the State to be charged with directing terrorism.

He is also accused of membership of the Real IRA. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The prosecution case is centred on the evidence provided by Mr Rupert, a US trucking boss turned double agent for the FBI and MI5.

After allegedly infiltrating the dissident group in 1999, he said he met McKevitt on several occasions both at his home and at hotels in the Republic.

At one of these meetings, Mr Rupert claimed McKevitt told him he had two sleeper agents in place in America.

One of these was named as James Smith.

Mr Rupert said: “I was told that he was ex-French Foreign Legion and he was particularly good with weapons.”

McKevitt, who was the alleged former quartermaster in the Provisional IRA, had worked with Smith on a weapons acquisition trip to South Africa.

“Somehow he had run awry of the Provisionals and Mr McKevitt had been able to spirit him out of South Africa and move him to the US,” Mr Rupert said.

“I was told that he was of a level of profession that in the event that they, they being the new army, wanted to assassinate somebody of the type of Tony Blair that he would be the type of person they would bring in to do it.”

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