Major British operation in Armagh and Fermanagh

Hundreds of PSNI police and British army troops, took part in a massive military operation in parts of Armagh and Fermanagh on Monday.

The PSNI police claimed it had broken up a hardline republican gun-running operation in a series of raids.

Republican Sinn Fein described the raids, which led to the arrest of ten people, as “gratuitous harassment”.

Despite the massive scale of the operation, which is believed to have involved MI5 and other British security agencies, no significant number of weapons has been found. The PSNI is continuing to interrogate eight people.

Several homes and businesses were raided in the Lurgan area of north Armagh and the Donagh and Lisnaskea districts of Fermanagh.

Republican Sinn Fein last night hit out at the raids.

A local member of the Ard-Chomhairle of Republican Sinn Fein was one of those arrested and taken to Antrim police barracks .

Michael Lavelle of Lisnaskea, was arrested with with his wife and son in 2003 on charges which later collapsed but not before he had spent nine months in prison on remand.

In his case the members of his family were all put out on the street while the house was minutely searched.

In another case in the Lisnaskea area, the man of the house had already left for work and the family were all herded into one room while the house was ransacked. No supervision of the raid was permitted in either case.

Seized were a computer and all documents and papers dealing with family finances and the finances of the business in which the man of the house is engaged.

Significantly the PSNI admitted that their operation was carried out after a joint investigation between them and “British security services”, prompting speculation that M15, MI6 or both were involved.

Earlier this month, it emerged that a #20 million (O29 million) base is currently being built outside Belfast to cater for M15 when they take primary responsibility for investigating paramilitary organisations next year.

Nationalists are opposed to the move on the grounds that the so-called “intelligence” agency, which has a history of murder and mayhem in Ireland, will not be accountable to any oversight body.

MI5 has also been accused of playing a role in the deaths of 29 people in the Omagh bombing by the breakaway ‘Real IRA’ 1998.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News