Dissident republicans the Real IRA have issued an Easter statement threatening to kill Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and resume terrorist attacks on the British mainland.
The statement, in the Irish newspaper the Sunday Tribune, branded Mr McGuinness, a former Provisional IRA commander, a traitor for holding the position of deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Mr McGuinness last month denounced the hardliners as "traitors to the people of Northern Ireland" after members of the group murdered two British soldiers outside the Massereene barracks in Armagh. Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, were the first troops to die in Northern Ireland since the IRA's ceasefire in 1997.
Last night, Mr McGuinness had not responded to the threat but Sinn Fein's president, Gerry Adams, told republicans at Belfast's Milltown cemetery that there would be no return to the days of "sectarian domination and two-tier citizenship".
"I uphold the right of everyone to dissent from Sinn Fein's point of view," Mr Adams said. "But no one is entitled to hijack our proud republican history and our republican future and abuse it for narrow selfish interests or self gain.
"Sinn Fein, standing firmly on a republican platform, sets ourselves firmly against those elements who do this."
The Sunday Tribune, which has published Real IRA statements before, quoted an anonymous spokesman who said London would again become a target; in 2000, the splinter group launched a rocket at MI6's headquarters on the South Bank and detonated a car bomb outside BBC Television Centre.
The spokesman said: "A former comrade [Martin McGuinness] has come full circle and with a knight of the British realm [Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde] at his shoulder he has labelled our gallant volunteers as traitors to justify his Redmondite [opposed to violent republicanism] stance and home rule politics.
"Let us remind our former comrade of the nature and actions of a traitor. Treachery is collaborating with the enemy, treachery is betraying your country." The spokesman also referred to the murder in 2006 of Denis Donaldson, a former head of Sinn Fein's administration at Stormont who was shot in a remote cottage in Co Donegal four months after confessing to having spied for the British. The Real IRA was due to claim responsibility for his death which rocked the peace process at a rally in Londonderry today.
"Let us give our one-time comrade an example. Denis Donaldson was a traitor and the leadership of the Provisional movement, under guidance from the British Government, made provision for Donaldson to escape republican justice," he said.
"It fell to the volunteers of Oglaigh na hEireann [the IRA] to carry out the sentence and punishment demanded in our army orders and by the wider republican family. No traitor will escape justice regardless of time, rank, past actions. The republican movement has a long memory."
The spokesman threatened attacks on the mainland "when it becomes opportune," and said high-profile targets would be sought out. In Northern Ireland, young Catholic PSNI recruits could be killed if they refused to leave the force: "Any young person fool enough to join the colonial police in the belief that the leadership of the Provisional movement will protect them or give them cover is sadly mistaken."
Sir Hugh Orde warned days before the Massereene murders on 7 March that the threat from republican dissidents was the highest it had been in his seven-year tenure as Chief Constable.Reuse content