THE ‘IRA’ has claimed responsibility for a number of suspected letter bombs sent to British Army offices.
Scotland Yard confirmed the group’s claim on Monday after seven suspect packages were discovered at armed forces recruitment centres in south-east England last week.
A terror expert told The Irish Post that the claim “almost certainly” came from a republican group that launched in 2012 as ‘the new IRA’.
But John Morrison, a senior lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of East London, said the dissidents were more likely to want to “send a message” to British authorities than claim lives.
He said the attempted attacks are part of a wider campaign that also includes killing suspected drug dealers in the North of Ireland in an attempt to win support from republicans disenchanted with Sinn Féin’s disavowal of violence.
“This is about sending a message to say ‘look, we are doing something that the Shinners aren’t doing at all’,” Morrison said.
Belfast-based paper The Irish News reported that the “IRA” statement claiming responsibility for the explosive devices said: “Attacks will continue when and where the IRA see fit.”
But Brighton MP Andre Mercer branded the letter bombs as the work of ‘amateurs’.
The former army colonel who served in the North of Ireland told the Mail on Sunday: “I understand that they were amateurish in their construction. The devices are thought to have been sent by members of the Real IRA, however there is currently a feud inside this organisation about whether to mount a campaign in mainland Britain.”
Four suspected devices were discovered at Army careers offices in Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury and Slough last week.
They came after similar packages were sent earlier to Aldershot, Reading and Chatham.
At least one of the packages bore a Republic of Ireland postmark, but some reports claimed two could be traced to Dublin, with another originating in a border county.
A Downing Street spokesperson described the devices contained in the packages as “crude, but potentially viable” and said they bore “the hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism”.
On Monday Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “The claim was received on Saturday, 15 February by a Northern Irish media outlet using a recognised codeword. The claim was allegedly made on behalf of the ‘IRA’.”
The attempted attacks sparked suspicion of a renewed focus on Britain by the new IRA, with The Daily Mail carrying the headline: “Irish bombs return to Britain”
It has been almost a decade since republicans last struck in England.
Security forces on both sides of the Irish border have thwarted a number of attempts by the group to transport bombs and mortar devices into Belfast and Derry since its inception in July 2012.
The new IRA brought together the Real IRA, armed vigilantes from a group known as Republican Action Against Drugs and independent armed units in Co. Tyrone.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness labelled the attempted bombings “an attack on the Peace Process”.
“Those responsible belong in the past. Their futile acts must be condemned,” he said.
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Ivan Lewis MP said the bombing attempt resembled other dissident activity designed to “reverse the progress we have seen in NI over the past 15 years”.
“Their attempt to harm innocent people will be condemned by the people of Northern Ireland, including by those they claim to represent,” he added.