N.Ireland militants still 'active and dangerous': watchdog

26th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland remain "highly active and dangerous" but command little support, the latest report from a paramilitary watchdog said on Wednesday.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) said mainstream organisations continue to follow the peaceful path set out by the 1998 Good Friday peace accords, which largely ended three decades of sectarian violence here.

"In the six months under review dissident groups remained highly active and dangerous," the report said.

Security services have warned the threat posed by paramilitaries opposed to the peace process is at its highest level for more than a decade and sporadic attacks continue to plague the province.

A car bomb was left outside a polling booth on the May 6 election, while a bomb exploded outside the headquarters of Britain's MI5 security agency in April. Nobody was seriously hurt.

The IMC report said the Real IRA, which shot dead one of its own members in February, remains "an extremely serious threat" but has little local support, political clout or serious resources.

The Real IRA is a splinter group of the Provisional IRA, the main republican paramilitary group which gave up its long-running and bloody campaign for Northern Ireland to be unified with the Republic of Ireland in 2005.

It claimed responsibility for the killing of two British soldiers in the province in March 2009 and regularly attacks security forces here, conducts shootings, assaults and various forms of serious organised crime.

However, the Real IRA's campaign was "in no way a reappearance of something comparable" to the main IRA's campaigns during The Troubles, the IMC said.

The political context is "entirely different", as most people back the peace process and the power-sharing administration between the republicans and unionists which run the British-ruled province and the Real IRA also lacks the same resources as the mainsteam IRA, the IMC said.

© 2010 AFP

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