Sat, Mar 14, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Irish police seek common strategy against IRA threats


The commanders of Ireland’s two police forces pursued a common strategy on Thursday for catching Irish Republican Army dissidents responsible for a new wave of violence, amid fears their next attack could be a car bomb.

Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and other senior officers from the Republic of Ireland discussed better coordination of anti-terrorist activities with Chief Constable Hugh Orde, commander of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Their talks at Orde’s headquarters in Protestant east Belfast focused on intensified surveillance and eavesdropping of members of two splinter groups, the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, which claimed responsibility for the past week’s fatal shootings of two soldiers and a policeman.

Both breakaway groups are strongest along Northern Ireland’s 360km border with the Irish Republic. The frontier was once dotted with British surveillance towers and fortified road checkpoints, but today it is military-free in keeping with Northern Ireland’s peace process.

The Republic of Ireland’s police force, the Garda Siochana, said three of its elite squads — the National Surveillance Unit, Emergency Response Unit and Special Detective Unit — had deployed officers to the border, where they were providing shadowy backup to an overt show of strength designed principally to reassure the public.

Since Tuesday, police on the Republic of Ireland side have been stopping and searching vehicles bound for Northern Ireland. The searches cover only the biggest of more than 100 cross-border roads.

Thursday’s security conference coincided with public mourning by Northern Ireland’s security forces.

The British Army held a memorial service in honor of two Corps of Royal Engineers soldiers — Cengiz “Patrick” Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23 — who were gunned down on Saturday outside their army base as they collected pizzas from delivery men.

They were the first soldiers killed in Northern Ireland since 1997. The Real IRA claimed responsibility for that ambush, which also wounded two other soldiers and both pizza couriers.

And hundreds of mourners arrived at the home of Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, to attend his wake in advance of Friday’s funeral.

Carroll, an English-born Catholic and 23-year veteran, was shot through the head Monday as he sat in his patrol car. The Continuity IRA said it killed him.

His widow, Kate, gave an interview to Ulster Television that was broadcast across Britain and Ireland. She spoke of their last moments at the door as he went to work — and he wondered aloud whether the dissidents might try to kill him that night, with barely 18 months to go to retirement.

“He thought this war was over, but obviously not, and I just can’t believe that this has all started up again,” Kate Carroll said.

She nonetheless expressed the hope that his killing might be the last of Northern Ireland’s four-decade conflict, which has already claimed more than 3,700 lives.

“I just hope he hasn’t died in vain,” she said.

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