IRA terror suspect questioned by Garda

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The Independent Online

A 27-year-old man was being held in Dublin yesterday in connection with IRA activities in mainland Britain, including the recent London bombing campaign that shattered the ceasefire.

Anti-terrorist police are expected to apply for the man's extradition, although it is understood he is not being linked to the Docklands bomb in which two people died.

His arrest on Thursday morning followed a surveillance operation launched by the Irish Garda's Special Branch when the 17-month IRA ceasefire ended in February.

It is believed the incidents the man will be questioned over include the three Semtex "bag bombs" that exploded in central London, one of which accidentally detonated on a double decker bus killing the IRA terrorist Edward O'Brien.

It is understood he was quizzed by the Garda yesterday about 1994 bombs in Brighton and Bognor Regis, which involved bicycle frames packed with explosives.

The man, from the north Dublin suburb of Finglas, was detained under the terms of Irish anti-terrorist legislation. This permits suspects to be held for up to 48 hours, meaning he has to be charged or released by this morning.

British anti-terrorist sources yesterday confirmed their interest in the suspect. Scotland Yard declined to confirm that they would make an early application for his extradition, but it is understood this will happen shortly.

The IRA brought the ceasefire to an abrupt end with a 1,000lb fertiliser bomb planted in a truck that was left at South Quay in London's Docklands on 9 February. On 15 February, a 5lb Semtex bomb was left in a holdall inside a telephone box in Charing Cross Road, central London. That device was made safe and no-one was injured.

On the evening of 18 February, O'Brien killed by his own bomb when it ripped apart the bus he was on as it passed along Aldwych, also in central London. Enough Semtex and bomb making equipment for a further 20 bombs were found later at O'Brien's flat in Lewisham, south east London, with numerous documents.

In the early hours of 9 March, another small Semtex bag bomb exploded in Old Brompton Road, Fulham, west London, causing minor damage. The IRA later acknowledged the device was one of theirs.

The suspect has also been questioned about the bicycle bombs used in August 1994. The terrorists packed several pounds of Semtex into the pannier bags of two hire bicycles.

A bike with a 5lb bomb exploded in the main shopping precinct at Bognor Regis, West Sussex, badly damaging 15 shops. In Brighton, a mountain bike carrying a similar device was left at the Palace Pier, but was made safe.

Bicycle bombs had been used before in Northern Ireland, but these were thought to be the first attacks of this kind on the mainland.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Garda patrols discovered a 20-foot crater earlier this week at a remote spot in the Ox Mountains, County Sligo, near the village of Coolaney. Twisted metal wreckage at the site suggested that explosive devices were being tested there.

Last month, it was indicated that the IRA had developed a powerful new "barracks-buster" mortar.