10 held in Irish arms find

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The Independent Online

Irish police today promised no let-up in operations targeted at a suspected re-grouping plot by dissident republican terror groups opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Irish police today promised no let-up in operations targeted at a suspected re-grouping plot by dissident republican terror groups opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.

The pledge was given as detectives continued to question 10 people arrested in an overnight swoop on a former farm north of Dublin.

Nine men and a 14-year-old boy were detained in or near a purpose-built underground firing range under the terms of Irish anti-terrorist legislation.

The raid coincided with a new warning from Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Sir Ronnie Flanagan about the growing threat of violence from dissident republicans.

Sir Ronnie said intelligence reports indicated there was little doubt that the mavericks were planning fresh strikes near Ulster's border with the Irish Republic.

In last night's development, an Irish police squad, which included members of the armed, specially-trained Emergency Response Unit and air back-up, also uncovered an AK-47 assault rifle - the favourite weapon of the IRA before its ceasefire - a rapid-fire machine gun, a pistol and ammunition.

Garda Siochana Superintendent John Farrelly confirmed today that a search of the area, a site just 30 miles from Dublin, would continue.

He said those arrested in the operation came from both sides of the Irish border, and were believed to be hardliners who had split from IRA because of that organisation's continuing ceasefire.

Superintendent Farrelly added that the underground bunker appeared to have been constructed from a substantial wine-cellar which once formed part of a now-demolished house.

"It had been modified as a firing range and a training area," he said.

The superintendent confirmed that the on-going police activity was concentrated on suspected members of the Real IRA paramilitary organisation which carried out last year's mass-murder bomb attack on Omagh, Co Tyrone, when 29 people died and more than 200 were injured.

He said: "Since early this month, there has been a total of around 26 arrests as a result of the intensification of our activities in relation to this."

Recent reports have indicated that the Real IRA has been involved in planning a new terror campaign with members of the rival breakaway faction the Continuity IRA, as well as rebel personnel from the Irish National Liberation Army.

Superintendent Farrelly said: "This is evidence of activity of a nature that no one likes to see.

"We will redouble our efforts to try to prevent anything sinister that might happen in the future, and hopefully the success of last night's operation will help in that.

"It is very much part of an on-going operation. The weaponry found will be examined by our ballistic people and there will be more searching."

The group arrested last night can be held for up to 72 hours under Irish law before being either charged or released.

Following a number of arrests early this month in the south-east region of the Irish Republic, a man appeared in court charged with membership of an illegal organisation.

Other arrests were made in the greater Dublin area last weekend, but all those held were later released.

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