THE LOYALIST bombing menace has increased to the point where almost 30 per cent of explosive devices come from extreme Protestants, the Army in Northern Ireland said yesterday, writes
According to army statistics, 108 of the devices used this year have been the work of the IRA while loyalists were responsible for 63. Killings by loyalist gunmen are also on the rise, now accounting for more deaths than the IRA.
In addition to crude pipe bombs one loyalist group, the Ulster Volunteer Force, now has access to supplies of powerful commercial explosive. The security forces regard this as a worrying development since the UVF often sets out to inflict casualties on a large scale.
Last week, the group was responsible for the killing of six Catholics in a shooting attack on a Catholic bar in Loughinisland, Co Down. Several weeks ago it unsuccessfully attempted to blow up a Dublin bar during a Sinn Fein function. The Army said yesterday that the device, had it worked, 'would have exacted a tremendous death toll'.
In a media briefing yesterday, the Army's chief explosives expert indicated the UVF was using its supplies of commercial explosive sparingly, suggesting supplies were limited. He confirmed the substance involved was Powergel, probably stolen from British quarries. Five years ago the number of loyalist bombings was negligible, but by a year ago it had increased to around 18per cent of explosive incidents.