BELFAST (Reuters) - Republican dissidents in Northern Ireland have formed a new militant organisation to escalate attacks which have targeted British army and police this year, the Sunday Times reported, citing Republican sources.
A spokesman in Belfast for Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, said: “We have no knowledge of it so we can’t comment on something that we know nothing about.”
Sporadic violence in Northern Ireland has increased in recent months since Republican dissidents killed two British soldiers and a police officer in two separate attacks in March, threatening a decade-long peace process.
The March killings marked a low point since a 1998 peace deal mostly ended 30 years of conflict between the IRA, seeking a united Ireland, and groups wanting to maintain British control of the province.
Citing one “Republican hardliner,” the Sunday Times said the “new IRA organisation” -- which wouldn’t officially bear that name to avoid detection -- would partly draw on the membership of the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, the two splinter groups which claimed responsibility for the March killings.
“In terms of its capacity to mount attacks, it represents the most potent threat in terms of launching a new campaign,” the Republican source said.
In the latest major attacks at security forces, gunmen last month ambushed and shot at police and a 400 lb (180 kg) car bomb partially exploded at the Belfast headquarters of the police watchdog on the same day.
Northern Ireland’s political stability has also been threatened by a standoff threatening the delicate balance between Republican and pro-British parties forming the provinces’ power-sharing regional executive.
Sinn Fein, the political ally of the IRA, and First Minister Peter Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party, which jointly lead the executive, disagree over the timing of transferring powers over policing and justice matters from London to Belfast.
Writing by Andras Gergely; editing by Michael Roddy
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