Police in Northern Ireland disrupt a terror attack plan that overshadows President Joe Biden’s visit this week amid fresh warnings of violence
- Biden is due to arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday at the start of the trip
- Local media reported that dissident Republicans from the New IRA were planning the attack
- However, a search operation is believed to have disrupted the plot to obscure the visit
A dissident republican terrorist group in Northern Ireland is planning a major attack that will overshadow President Joe Biden’s visit to the region this week, according to local reports.
The president is due to land in Belfast on Tuesday amid a major security operation.
Officials recently raised the security alert to “severe” from “substantial” as the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom prepare to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of violence, known as The Troubles.
However, splinter terrorist groups that oppose the peace deal have intensified their activity in recent weeks.
Against this background, the Police Service of Northern Ireland reportedly conducted searches in the city of Derry, one of the focal points of violence during the Troubles.
President Joe Biden is due to arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday night amid mounting warnings of terrorist attacks despite the 25-year-old peace deal.
A republican mural on a side wall of the Saoradh offices in the city center of Derry, Northern Ireland in May earlier this year. The group is close to dissident Republicans
One insider said Belfast Telegraph The British Army Bomb Squad was on the scene last weekend.
“They were looking for parts to make a bomb,” the source said.
“The belief is that the New IRA was planning some kind of attack to coincide with Biden’s visit, similar to a mortar attack on policemen in Strapany last November.”
The New IRA formed about a decade ago, from the amalgamation of other dissident republican groups committed to a united Ireland.
Two police officers were injured in an attack last year in Strapani, Co. Tyrone.
The renewed violence is a reminder that Biden is arriving in a divided Ireland. Although the Good Friday Agreement saw most paramilitary groups lay down their arms and embrace a new power-sharing political system, a small minority continue to wage war.
The largest police operation in a decade is underway in Northern Ireland to protect Biden. Some officers will work 12-hour shifts until they can take up frontline roles.
Biden is expected to take part in events on Wednesday of remembrance before crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the force had received “strong” intelligence that defectors were planning terrorist attacks against officers on holiday.
Biden arrived in County Mayo in 2016 during his last visit to Ireland in an official capacity. The then Vice-President spent six days in the country, visiting Dublin, Mayo and Louth
He would arrive the day after another flashpoint, Easter Sunday. It’s a time when Republicans, who believe in a united Ireland, commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule with parades.
Last week, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the force had received “strong” intelligence that dissidents were planning terrorist attacks against officers on the bank holiday.
It comes after MI5 recently raised the terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. It followed the armed attack in Co Tyrone on senior detective John Caldwell, who was left with life-changing injuries. Police blamed the New IRA for the attack.
Biden himself downplayed fear.
The Good Friday Agreement ended decades of violence. This file photo shows the aftermath of an IRA car bomb in London in 1973. But dissident Republicans have stepped up attacks on police in recent weeks and security is tight ahead of Biden’s visit.
When asked recently by DailyMail.com if the increased alertness would derail his travel plans, he said, “No, they can’t keep me out.”
He is due to follow Belfast on a visit to Co Louth, from where his ancestors sailed to America in the mid-19th century.
He will then head to the capital, Dublin, where he will address the Irish Parliament, before traveling to Ballina, May, to visit distant relatives on Friday.
There he will deliver a keynote address to an audience expected to number 20,000.
What is the New IRA? How they became the biggest terrorist threat to Northern Ireland
The New IRA has claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019
The New IRA is believed to be the largest of the dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland.
He has been linked to a number of murders including journalist and writer Lyra Mackie in 2019, PC Ronan Kerr in 2011, prison officers David Black in 2012 and Adrienne Ismay in 2016.
The New IRA is believed to have been formed between 2011 and 2012 following the merger of a number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA.
The group is strongest in Londonderry and Strabane, with a presence in Belfast, other pockets in Co Tyrone, and Lurgan in Co Armagh. In August 2020 the alleged leadership of the New IRA was dealt a major blow by a series of arrests sparked by an MI5 surveillance operation.
Dissident republican terrorist activity has been at a lower level in Northern Ireland in recent years, and the security services have achieved a number of successes impeding the activities of terrorist groups.
This past March, the terrorist threat level from dissident Republicans was lowered from severe to significant for the first time in 12 years.