The Secret IRA Meetings: IRA denies lull in killing is ceasefire

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The Independent Online
ALMOST a full month has passed in Northern Ireland without a fatal terrorist attack - an unusual happening in an area that earlier this year was experiencing deaths almost every week, writes David McKittrick.

Republican sources reject the suggestion that the fall-off amounts to a virtual ceasefire, though they add that the IRA may be responding to the general atmosphere, which favours talks.

The level of republican activity has dropped, though it has by no means ceased. Among incidents yesterday was a sniper attack on a patrol in west Belfast in which nobody was injured.

According to Royal Ulster Constabulary statistics, 17 IRA attacks were logged between 23 October, when a republican bombing killed nine people on Belfast's Shankill Road, and 25 November. This is less than average for the IRA, though by how much is not clear. The last person killed was a police officer who died on 2 November after being hit in a sniper attack several days earlier in Newry, Co Down. The last killings by loyalists came when Ulster Defence Association gunmen shot five people in a Catholic bar at Greysteel, Co Londonderry, on 30 October. Since then there have been at least two failed loyalist attempts.

Security sources attribute the decline in loyalist killings largely to surveillance concentrated on UDA and Ulster Volunteer Force activists.