Skip to main content

'Absolutely reckless' Irish nationalists behind mortar plot, police say

By Peter Taggart, for CNN
updated 8:20 AM EST, Mon March 4, 2013
Map: Londonderry, Northern Ireland
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Would-be attackers put civilian lives in the community at risk, police say
  • They planned to use crude homemade mortars against police, authorities say
  • Police arrested three people after discovering the mortar and shells
  • More than 100 homes were evacuated

(CNN) -- The discovery of a homemade mortar and four live shells in a van with the roof cut open led to the arrest of three suspected Irish Republican Army dissidents, police in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, said Monday.

The men were on their way to target a police station in an urban neighborhood when police intercepted them Sunday night, said Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin, Londonderry district commander for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Two were arrested at the time. Police tracked down a third man later, Cargin said.

"I have no doubt the capability of those devices was nothing more than mass casualties, potentially mass murder," he said.

After discovering the shells, which Cargin described as "crude, homemade devices," police evacuated more than 100 homes while being attacked by youths throwing objects, including gas bombs, Cargin said.

Had the shells been fired, they could have hit residential areas surrounding the police station, injuring civilians instead of police officers, Cargin said, describing the would-be attackers as "absolutely reckless."

"They were not only putting police officers' lives at risk, but they were recklessly putting the lives of their own community at risk," he said.

Cargin described the plot as "a reckless attack by dissident Republicans to murder police officers in the city of Derry."

"Dissident Republicans" refers to Irish nationalists who disagree with the 1998 peace accords aimed at ending decades of largely sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and Britain.

The conflict pitted a predominantly Protestant faction that wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom against Catholics who wanted it to become part of a united Ireland.

"To characterize these people, they are voices from the past and there's no future for them," Cargin said.

Londonderry has been wracked with violence in the past.

Last year, two bombs exploded in the city -- one near government offices and police headquarters, the other near a tourism office.

It was also the site of the infamous 1972 "Bloody Sunday" incident in which British soldiers fired on civil rights marchers, killing 13.

CNN's Michael Pearson contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:28 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
With the discovery of debris from the AirAsia plane, investigators move closer to discovering what happened. What are the key questions, and what comes next?
updated 11:40 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
The growth of AirAsia has been a regional aviation success story. The reason behind the loss of Flight QZ 8501 will be key to whether passengers start to shun it, says Alan Khee-Jin Tan.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
They say there are no stupid questions -- but are there? How about, "Do you speak African?"
updated 9:39 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
The year of outrage also applies to China's Internet users in 2014.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
One man swims among sharks without the protection of a cage to make studio-quality, intimate photos of the sea creatures.
updated 6:50 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Using a technology that has been around for 130 years, a company called Pavegen hopes to create electricity from everyday human activities.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist and fatherof the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 7:45 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Gone are the days of grainy phone images with the resolution of a poor imitation Monet.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 12:45 PM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
"The year in pictures" treks across the globe, looking back on the events that shaped 2014.
updated 11:07 AM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT