March 22, 2019 / 12:14 PM / 9 months ago

Irish parcel appears identical to UK letter bombs: police

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A suspicious parcel found at a postal sorting office in the western Irish county of Limerick appears to be identical to letter bombs sent to buildings in London and the University of Glasgow this month, Irish police said on Friday.

Police said they were investigating the parcel identified at the sorting office shortly after 0600 GMT on Friday and were liaising with British authorities. The army’s bomb disposal team was on the scene.

A dissident Irish nationalist group calling itself the “IRA” claimed responsibility for three letter bombs sent to London and a fourth to Glasgow. The small group is made up of militants opposed to Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal.

British police said those claiming responsibility had indicated that five devices were sent and Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan was quoted as saying the postage stamp on the Limerick parcel suggested it “could well be the fifth”.

Flanagan said the sending of letter bombs was “totally unacceptable” and linked it to heightened tensions in the British province of Northern Ireland around Britain’s exit from the European Union.

“It is a dreadful consequence of the uncertainties around Brexit where in the context of the heightened tensions in Northern Ireland, in the island of Ireland that people have taken it on themselves to send letter bombs,” he was quoted as telling national broadcaster RTE.

Police blew up the parcel sent to the University of Glasgow on March 6, and said it was linked to the three devices sent to major transport hubs in London the day before.

White postal bags holding small bombs were sent to London’s Heathrow and City airports and Waterloo, the capital’s busiest train station, on March 5. One device caught fire when opened but caused no injuries and services continued at all three hubs.

“One line of inquiry is that the package found today in Limerick was returned there having never reached the intended recipient in London,” Dean Haydon, the UK’s Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing.

“We are also aware that a claim of responsibility made on March 11 referenced there being a fifth package. Whilst that remains a line of inquiry, we continue to keep an open mind on who may be responsible and any potential motivation.”

The “IRA” is separate and far smaller than the Provisional IRA, which was responsible for almost half of the 3,600 deaths during 30 years of violence and which disbanded after the peace deal.

Dissident groups are smaller in number and capability though they have claimed lives in recent years, including those of two prison officers.

The “IRA” said it was responsible for placing a car bomb which detonated outside a courthouse in Londonderry in January. No one was injured in the blast.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Alison Williams

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