Seven small parcel bombs left at military installations in England last week all bore postmarks from the Irish Republic, according to intelligence sources, and while crudely made marked the first time in recent years that Irish republican militants had struck the English mainland.
The bombs were amateurish, said sources, and several were low-powered “party popper”devices more likely to frighten than harm anyone who opened them. About as strong as “Christmas crackers,” the party favors Britons pop open at Christmas dinner, the bombs were mailed from the Irish Republic in envelopes the size of a sheet of typing paper.
But the impact of the bombs was less about size than symbolism, said one source. “Irish dissidents have demonstrated an ability to once again strike against England,” said the source. Militants planted bombs in London in 2000 and 2001.
After the devices were discovered, a caller to the Irish media claimed credit on behalf of “the New IRA” and said attacks would take place “when and where the IRA sees fit.” The “New IRA” was formed from the merger of two splinter republican groups. The main body of the IRA, the Provisional IRA, declared a ceasefire in its armed struggle with the British government in the late 1990s.
When armed Irish groups began to step up the pace of their attacks two years ago, England’s domestic security service acknowledged publicly that it had underestimated the threat. MI5 has since shifted significant resources to fighting the Republican terror campaign, drawing some resources away from the agency’s other missions, notably the hunt for al Qaeda terror cells.
The Irish splinter groups are now conducting 25 to 30 attacks a year. The most recent lethal attack was the murder of David Black, a Northern Ireland police officer, who was ambushed and shot on a highway in November 2012.
Following the discovery of parcel bombs at military recruiting centers last Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron emerged from a crisis management meeting largely devoted to the floods inundating his nation and acknowledged the Irish terror threat to the media.
“He effectively gave the IRA what it sought,” one source said. “Publicity.”