Dissident Irish republican terrorists are adopting tactics inspired by Al Qaeda, using information from the Islamist group to build bombs and rockets.
The link came to light after republican terrorists fired a mortar bomb at police in Belfast last month. The rocket was very similar to the type widely used by jihadis in Iraq.
The rocket missed its target, however, hitting railings and a wall, causing it to explode prematurely. Along with the targeted police vehicle, a passing car with three children inside was showered with masonry and shrapnel.
There are currently three active militant republican groups in Northern Ireland: the Continuity IRA, Óglaigh na hÉireann and the “New IRA”. Police describe these groups as small, divided and incapable of mounting a serious paramilitary campaign like the old IRA did, yet they still take up a lot of police time.
Although two of the three groups are known to have Al Qaeda-style rockets, this is the first time that a group have successfully fired one.
According to the Times, younger members of these groups are known to have accessed jihadi websites to learn how to make weapons and explosives, and the groups are still capable of carrying out lethal attacks. The terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland remains “severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely.
In recent months, terrorists have also left bombs in restaurants in central Belfast, planted booby-trap devices on cars and thrown pipe-bombs.
There are also fears that a younger generation of Northern Irelanders are becoming radicalised. 22-year-old Connor Hughes was arrested last week and charged with possession of a mortar bomb and command wire. He was just four years old when the IRA ceasefire took effect.