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6pm GMT

Real IRA man's brother arrested in Lithuania weapons sting



Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
Wednesday January 23, 2008
Guardian Unlimited


The brother of a Real IRA leader is one of two Irish citizens detained in Lithuania on suspicion of buying a large quantity of firearms and explosives for the dissident Irish republican terror group.

Prosecutors in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, announced the arrests today after a lengthy "sting" operation in the city.

Irish security sources named one of those involved as Michael Campbell, 36, from Upper Faughart, Dundalk, Co Louth. His brother Liam has served two prison sentences for Real IRA activities.

A woman was the other person being held after the operation by Lithuanian police, the Garda Siochana and British security services.

Lithuanian police posing as arms dealers met with Campbell and the woman in Vilnius on Tuesday, the sources said.

They allegedly sought arms destined for a breakaway faction of the Real IRA, which has divided into two rival groupings.

The Real IRA faction allegedly involved is run by Liam Campbell, who has strongholds around Dundalk, south Armagh, Derry and Cork.

In recent months his group has been trying to restart its terror campaign and has targeted Catholic recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland for assassination.

The group's Derry unit was responsible in November for the attempted murder of a Catholic PSNI officer taking his son to school. The target, Jim Doherty, survived with multiple shotgun wounds.

The faction is estimated to have around a dozen members, but among them are experienced terrorists from the Provisional IRA.

Following Michael Campbell's arrest, Irish police carried out searches last night in Dundalk and along the border with Northern Ireland.

Four years ago, Michael Campbell was at the centre of a Real IRA cigarette smuggling racket worth millions of euros. Police raided warehouses in Holland and the Irish Republic. Campbell was found guilty of cigarette smuggling by a Dutch court and jailed for four months in the Netherlands.

Over the last decade the Real IRA has sought to buy weapons in the former Soviet bloc and the Balkans. Eight years ago it was caught in a sting in Croatia trying to buy rifles, explosives and rocket launchers.

The Real IRA killed 29 people in the 1998 Omagh bombing and has refused to disarm following the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.





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