By Jack Holland
Fears for the peace process increased this week following two potentially deadly attacks linked to the Real IRA, which, though they failed to claim any victims, showed an increased level of sophistication, according to reliable sources.
The attacks were followed by signs of growing unrest within the ranks of the Ulster Defense Association as its political wing, the Ulster Democratic Party, suffered the loss of 14 of its branches, mainly in the Antrim area.
On Tuesday, dissident republicans in Derry fired a mortar at a security base in the Waterside district. It penetrated the station’s defenses but failed to explode.
At the weekend, a 100-pound bomb attached to a trip wire was discovered at the rear entrance to the police station in the little village of Claudy, Co. Derry. Security sources say that a few days earlier, there was a bomb hoax near the station. They believe that the bombers were hoping that the station would have been evacuated through the rear entrance, in which case the constables would have walked in to trap.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the chief constable, said that the bomb would have killed anyone within 90 feet and could have taken the lives of six or seven officers.
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A reliable security source said that it was a "nasty trick" and showed the influence of South Armagh activists who over the years carried out similar operations against the army and police.
"The Real IRA is getting its act together," he said.
Police believe that they are receiving help from disillusioned South Armagh republicans. In the bloodiest attack in the Troubles, the Real IRA killed 29 people in a car bomb attack in Omagh in August 1998.
Earlier in January, dissident republicans left a 1,100-pound bomb at the roadside near Armagh. It too was designed to kill members of the security forces. In December, a booby trap device seriously injured a policeman in County Down.