An expert on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has warned that dissident republican groups may attempt to use a pressure cooker bomb, similar to the one used in the Boston bombings, on the British mainland. Andy Oppenheimer, author of IRA: The Bombs And The Bullets, warned that there was evidence of attempts to smuggle the bombs across the Irish Sea.
This would not be the first time a low-tech pressure cooker bomb was used in the United Kingdom. Dissidents detonated one outside a Belfast restaurant in December, but the devices have never been used outside Northern Ireland.
The device used at the restaurant was similar to the one planted by the Boston bombers. The bombs killed three people and injured hundreds more at last year’s Boston Marathon. which killed three people and injured around 260 during the city’s marathon last year.
Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted two bombs close to each other in Boston, with one timed to go off 12 seconds after the other one. This meant that people were running in the direction of the second bomb when it went off, this ensured maximum injury and loss of life.
Although Belfast device did not go off, the warning of it did lead to a large evacuation. The Republican dissident group Óglaigh na hÉireann later admitted responsibility. It is thought that the Police were the intended target and the bombers hoped it would go off as officers searched the area.
Andy Oppenheimer told the Daily Star: “Several attempts to bring stuff across the Irish Sea have been pre-empted but if it was small-scale in nature that would be harder to stop.”
It is likely that republicans are adopting low-tech solutions because the sophisticated bomb making teams in the IRA are no longer active. They have agreed to a long running ceasefire and aside from the odd gangland incident this has held together.
Although threats from Northern Irish terrorists are taken extremely seriously in the United Kingdom it is widely accepted that the dangers are significantly less than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. Security Services are much more concerned about British jihadis.
This is particularly true because Irish Republicans have specific aims – principally the unification of Ireland – as such the British can negotiate with most of them. Jihadis have less obvious concrete aims, they tend to have a general dislike for freedom and democracy. They are also fatalistic and see dying for a cause as an end in of itself.
Follow Andre Walker on Twitter: @AndreJPWalker