MI5 foil Sam missile plot

25 Jun 2006
Martin Breen
News of the World

Real IRA planned huge terror spree

The Real IRA went shopping for surface-to-air missiles to shoot down British army helicopters. The renegade republican faction also tried to buy anti-tank weapons from MI5 agents they thought were international arms dealers. Even though Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt is serving a 20- year jail term in Portlaoise Prison for directing terrorism, security sources say he was aware of the plot which was busted last week. The Real IRA's deadly plan was thwarted in a massive undercover operation involving the PSNI and MI5.

Sources revealed that the terrorists unwittingly met undercover MI5 officers posing as arms dealers. The plan was discovered as a result of Real IRA cigarette smuggling rackets in mainland Europe. The terrorists had made inquiries in their bid to obtain the terror arsenal when MI5 and the PSNI learned of it. Meetings were secretly recorded and the sting set up once the security services learned the RIRA were jointly trying to obtain weapons with the Continuity IRA

Eleven people were arrested last week as part of a crackdown on the Real IRA and Continuity IRA but police now believe the Real IRA alone was involved in the arms plot which involved trips to Portugal, Spain and France.

Four people, including a husband and wife, have been charged over with the alleged plot. The fourth person to face arms and conspiracy to murder charges was 39-year old Paul McCaugherty who appeared at Craigavon magistrates court yesterday.

McCaugherty, from Beech Court, Lurgan, is also accused of being the Real IRA's second-in-command and of receiving 46,000 and the deeds of a commercial property in Portugal for the purposes of terrorism. (Note: Alvor Portugal)

He was remanded in custody to appear by video link at Craigavon Magistrates Court on July 20. A shopping list drawn up by the terror gangs included sniper rifles, which can pick targets off at distances of up to a mile, SAM- 7 missiles capable of shooting down British army helicopters, RPG rocket launchers, anti-tank armour-piercing shells, machine guns, AK47 assault rifles, pistols, silencers and plastic explosives.

The Real IRA intended to use the weapons to kill scores of police officers and soldiers. They were also planning bomb attacks and shootings in London and other major British cities. A source said: "If they had got their hands on these weapons from real arms dealers we would have seen a bloody terrorist campaign with a lot of lives lost."

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