Dissident suspects lifted in Portugal

Dissident suspects lifted in Portugal
Gerard Couzens, Victoria McMahon
10 July 2011
The Sunday Mirror

Pair held in arms raid

TWO suspected Real IRA men have been arrested in Portugal on suspicion of smuggling weapons destined for Northern Ireland.  The guns were earmarked to be used in a deadly offensive by the dissident group to unleash a fresh wave of violence against security forces in Northern Ireland.

Officers from M15's Holywood spy headquarters in Co Down are understood to have hooked-up with Portuguese anti-terrorist officers in the sting.

The crack British and Portuguese team spent months through covert surveillance gathering intelligence and information on the activities of the alleged rogue republicans before making their move.

The officers raided a number of locations on Friday in Portugal's "Riveria" of the Algarve.

A stash of 10 firearms and ammunition was uncovered during one of the raids.

The suspected dissidents, aged 38 and 59, were yesterday being held in a Portugal jail after being quizzed by a local magistrate.

A Portuguese man was also held during the raids.

Sources told the Sunday Mirror police believe the men may have led a support network for the Real IRA, which killed 29 people in a bomb attack in Omagh in 1998.

One of the men is thought to be an expat living on the Algarve previously identified by security services as a suspected Real IRA fundraiser involved in guns and cigarette smuggling.

The other man is said to have driven to the Algarve from Belfast shortly before his arrest, allegedly to pick up weapons he planned to smuggle back into Northern Ireland.

A Portuguese police spokesman said:

"A complex investigation led to three men being arrested.

"The three men, two foreigners and a Portuguese man, formed a criminal organisation dedicated amongst other things to international arms trafficking." 

Portugal has been previously dragged into a high-profile court case involving secret agents and dissident republicans.

During the trial of Real IRA chief Paul McCaugherty last year it emerged he had obtained a restaurant in the Algarve with the intent of selling it off to bolster the coffers of his dissident organisation.

He was duped by an MI5 agent posing as an arms dealer and was found guilty of trying to smuggle a huge cache of weapons and explosives into Northern Ireland.

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