Dissident republicans prompt national terror alert by Yard

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The Independent Online

Fears of a mainland Christmas bombing campaign by dissident republicans have prompted Scotland Yard to issue a national terrorist alert.

Fears of a mainland Christmas bombing campaign by dissident republicans have prompted Scotland Yard to issue a national terrorist alert.

Suspicions that dissidents may use Christmas to wreck this month's agreement on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement have led to top-level briefings with up to 30 organisations that could be targets.

Anti-terrorist officers from Scotland Yard and MI5 believe that the level of threat from breakaway groups opposed to the peace process is now at its highest for some time. Such groups are recognised as being capable of unleashing attacks on the mainland, ranging from lorry bombs to shootings and incendiary attacks.

Police believe that some of the Provisional IRA's most experienced bomb-makers and logistics experts are among a hard core of some 200 dissidents in a coalition of splinter groups including the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, INLA and renegade Provisionals.

The threat, according to police sources, is the most serious security alert for 18 months. It is being perceived as second only to that of an active bombing campaign. The security forces have already briefed likely targets for assassination, including senior military and political figures.

More police officers are to be deployed on the streets of London and security has been stepped up in Docklands and the City.

The warning came as Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, told MPs that although he believed the Good Friday Agreement could be implemented in full, he would not hesitate to freeze the process if the IRA did not deliver on arms decommissioning.

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