Two held after bomb factory is uncovered

Mon, May 24, 2010, 01:00

TWO GAS cylinders mounted on a small trailer, discovered by gardaí in a shed near Dundalk on Saturday, were part of a Real IRA bomb-making facility where a trailer bomb was in production for an imminent attack on security forces in the North, gardaí believe.

Two suspects, one in his mid-20s and another in his mid-50s, were arrested on Saturday evening following a lengthy intelligence-led surveillance operation by the Special Detective Unit (SDU), which specialises in investigating terrorism.

The arrests were made when a large team of gardaí moved in on a house and sheds at Mount Pleasant just north of Dundalk in Co Louth at 7pm on Saturday.

In one shed in a yard next to a bungalow the Garda search team found what they believe to be a Real IRA bomb-making facility.

Two tall gas cylinders with holes cut into them were found mounted on a small trailer. However, no explosives of any kind were found.

The trailer, which was ready to be pulled by a vehicle, had been affixed with two advertising hoardings that made the shape of an apex.

The modified gas cylinders had been concealed inside the apex and both had been carefully attached to the base of the trailer.

Garda sources said if the trailer had been attached to a vehicle and driven around on the open roads it would have had the appearance of a small for-hire advertising unit.

“You sometimes see them left on the side of a road advertising local events,” said one source.

Detectives investigating Saturday’s find are working on the theory that holes had been cut into the two cylinders – which were each around one foot in diameter and six feet in length – in order that explosives or a fertiliser bomb could be placed into them to make a mobile bomb unit.

Gas cylinders have also have been used for mortars in the past.

A mobile bomb-style apparatus was also used during a bomb attack outside Newry court house in February.

Gardaí believe the cylinders found on Saturday evening had most likely been modified and built into the advertising trailer in the shed where they were found.

Detectives believe they would have been used in a bomb attack against the security forces north of the Border.

The property at Mount Pleasant where the find was made is about 500m from a slip road leading to the M1 motorway.

The house is just minutes by car from the Border.

The two men being questioned last night were at the property when gardaí raided it. The men, aged 55 and 24 years, are from Co Louth.

The men arrested on Saturday evening were detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and were taken for questioning to Drogheda Garda station.

They were still being questioned last night, and can be held for up to 72 hours without charge.

The arrest operation involved armed detectives from the SDU along with armed members of the Emergency Response Unit and local gardaí.

The property, yard and sheds where the find was made remained sealed off over the weekend. An extensive search was conducted yesterday following Saturday’s find, and the house and outhouses were also examined over the weekend by members of the Garda Technical Bureau.

Gardaí have stepped up their surveillance on suspected dissident republicans, particularly around the Border and in Dublin, over the past 12 months as the number of attacks being carried out by dissidents against the PSNI officers and British army in the North has increased.

The North’s Minister for Justice David Ford welcomed the success of the Garda operation last night.

“I congratulate the Garda on what appears to have been a successful operation against terrorists planning a bomb attack.

“There has clearly been excellent co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI in recent months, and I welcome this further evidence of this continuing good work.”