‘IRA link’ to packages sent to Army centres

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A GROUP claiming to be linked to the IRA has claimed responsibility for suspect packages which were sent to recruitment centres of the Armed Forces.

Scotland Yard confirmed yesterday that a group using a recognised codeword had contacted a media outlet in Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Four suspected explosive devices were discovered at Army careers offices in Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury and the Queensmere shopping centre in Slough on Thursday last week.

The incidents followed packets sent to Aldershot in Hampshire on Wednesday and another two on Tuesday to an Armed Forces careers office in Reading in Berkshire, and the Army and RAF careers office in Chatham in Kent.

One of the packages bore a Republic of Ireland postmark and Downing Street had said the small but potentially viable devices bore “the hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism”.

Scotland Yard urged the public to “remain vigilant”, and added: “We are aware of the claim of responsibility for the devices that were sent to Army recruitment centres in England last week.

“The claim was received on Saturday February 15 by a Northern Irish media outlet using a recognised codeword. The claim was allegedly made on behalf of the ‘IRA’.”

The IRA disbanded in the years after it declared an end to its armed campaign in 2005, but a group calling itself the New IRA formed just before the London Olympics in 2012 and was linked to letter bombs sent last autumn.

The Irish News reported that the “IRA” had given a statement which said: “The IRA claims responsibility for the explosive devices that were sent to British armed forces recruitment centres in England.

“Attacks will continue when and where the IRA see fit.”

While dissident republican groups in Ireland have remained throughout the intervening years, they were mainly made up of long-standing hardliners who were never reconciled to the ongoing peace process.

The so-called New IRA was formed from a loose alliance of hardline republican groups. Unlike previous groups, it has enjoyed significant success in attracting fresh support from the disaffected youth in the Province, with hundreds of members thought to have signed up.

Anyone with information about the suspicious packages is being urged to call the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk