IRA 'set on pre-election hit'

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Senior security sources believe the IRA is intent on at least one high-profile "hit and run" attack in Britain in the run-up to the general election, writes David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent.

With the IRA's "England department" hard hit by a series of important arrests and seizures of material last year, they believe attacks will come not from terrorists based in England but in quick strikes from across the Irish Sea.

While today marks the anniversary of the Canary Wharf bomb which killed two men and ended the IRA cease-fire last February, the IRA has little record of marking such dates with more attacks. Nonetheless, security forces are on a high state of alert in Britain and in Belfast, where a stream of IRA attacks on army and police have, in recent weeks, narrowly missed inflicting casualties.

Meanwhile, considerable police resources in Northern Ireland are being diverted into dealing with public order problems posed by loyalist protests. In the most prominent dispute, loyalists have picketed Catholic mass-goers in the mainly Protestant Co Antrim town of Ballymena for more than 20 weeks. Focus, page 17