Dissidents slammed for planning bomb attack

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Security sources have hit out at dissident republicans after a massive bomb attack was foiled ahead of a loyalist Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry.

Security sources have hit out at dissident republicans after a massive bomb attack was foiled ahead of a loyalist Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry.

Police on both sides of the border were on their guard after a 500lb bomb was abandoned in Co Donegal in the Irish Republic in a van which had earlier smashed through an RUC checkpoint across the border in Londonderry.

The driver escaped after dumping the vehicle containing the homemade explosives near the village of Carrigans.

Tens of thousands of loyalist Apprentice Boys are due to march through Londonderry tomorrow.

A security source told PA News that in planning the attack, dissident republicans were attempting to "shaft" the IRA and undermine the peace process.

"Certainly, they are a continuing force in border areas as seen by their ability to wheel in one or two bombs in our direction," he said.

"We do not have an actual roll call of those people but there are individuals drifting towards dissident groups.

"I do not think it is because they are missing any action or attempting to keep their cause going because they know they have no hope of winning.

"Rather it is an attempt to shaft Sinn Fein and the IRA and prevent the process working from their perspective."

SDLP leader John Hume branded those behind the failed bomb attack "fascists".

Northern Ireland Security Minister Adam Ingram also claimed republican and loyalist hardliners were attempting to "frustrate the desire of the overwhelming majority of the population for peace".

Tomorrow's parade was given the go-ahead after talks involving march organisers, business leaders and nationalists living in the Bogside who had opposed the march in previous years.

An unprecedented settlement was reached for a protest-free march after the Parades Commission banned a feeder parade by Apprentice Boys on the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast.

The so-called Real IRA, the organisation which killed 29 people in the Omagh bomb two years ago, is thought to have been behind the failed attack.

The group was blamed for a 250lb car bomb which exploded outside an RUC station in Stewartstown, Co Tyrone, in July just hours before the controversial Drumcree parade in Portadown.

Dissidents were also responsible for attacks on Hammersmith Bridge in London, on railway tracks near Ealing Broadway tube station and for a suspect package during the Queen Mother's birthday pageant.

Meanwhile, tensions in Belfast were rising after the Ulster Freedom Fighters issued a threat that it would shoot Catholics following attacks on houses in the city.

The mainstream loyalist group, which is on ceasefire and has benefited from early prisoner releases under the Good Friday Agreement, sounded the warning as nationalist homes in north Belfast had windows smashed and paint thrown at them.

Loyalist homes and cars had been attacked the previous night.

Sinn Fein Assemblyman Gerry Kelly claimed the threat and attacks on nationalist houses suggested the UFF ceasefire was over.

"It seems to be that the UFF ceasefire is obviously not intact," he told PA News.

"If they appear to be saying that they are going to attack Catholics, then how can there be a ceasefire?

"All I want is that the threat against Catholics and nationalists is withdrawn."

However, John White, chairman of the Ulster Democratic Party, which has close links with the UFF, denied Mr Kelly's claim.

"The UFF ceasefire is intact," he insisted.

"What happened recently was a response to demands from people in the area for protection. It was a defence mechanism, not pro-active in terms of creating conflict.

"The consistency of these attacks by nationalists on the loyalist community have increased. There is no doubt they are orchestrated and if Sinn Fein/IRA are not behind it they are certainly not doing anything to stop it."

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Andrew Mackay congratulated the RUC and Garda Siochana for foiling the bomb attack.

"Their action has potentially saved many lives and prevented widespread destruction on the eve of the annual Apprentice Boys parade in the city," he said.

"Regrettably this incident reminds us again of the very serious threat posed by dissidents opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and why it would be wrong to undermine the anti-terrorist capability of the RUC before there is lasting peace and decommissioning."