Dissidents lied over mortar claim

Police investigate reports of a mortar attack and a shot fired at one of its patrols in west Belfast on July 27.
Police investigate reports of a mortar attack and a shot fired at one of its patrols in west Belfast on July 27.

A DISSIDENT republican terror group lied when it claimed to have fired a horizontal mortar at a PSNI Land Rover in west Belfast, both republican and security sources have said.

The claim by Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) last week has been dismissed as a publicity stunt “without an ounce of truth to it”.

Sources said the group’s claim was fabricated.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes as police searched for the device.

No mortar, nor trace of an explosion, was found.

A video allegedly showing the mortar exploding as a PSNI Land Rover passed actually exposes the group’s bogus boast.

The footage, which was viewed by the News Letter after being posted online, shows a ball of light – which appears to be a petrol bomb – exploding by the roadside, not a mortar being fired at a passing police vehicle. No background audio of an explosion is heard.

Although posted online nine days ago, the video is dated from five years earlier – July 22, 2007.

In a statement, the PSNI said while a shot had been discharged at them: “We have detected no evidence there was a mortar fired at officers.”

Police said they would consider releasing CCTV footage from the area ONH alleged the attack took place.

Republican sources said the mortar attack claim was fabricated by ONH’s Belfast-based leader because his “nose was put out of joint” by an announcement that three other republican paramilitary organisations had joined together to form a ‘new IRA’.

“His ego was badly dented because he sees himself as the main man. He was desperate for publicity for his group so he invented the rocket attack to grab the limelight,” said a source.

“He’s come a cropper because there are so many holes in his claim. He badly needs to save face. It wouldn’t be surprising if something was now planted and then ‘miraculously’ found in the area. But it won’t save his credibility among republicans because anybody with a brain knows no mortar was fired.”

The ONH leader from west Belfast, who is in his mid-30s, has a paramilitary conviction.

On July 26, the Real IRA – along with Republican Action Against Drugs and independent republicans – announced they’d merged into a new ‘IRA’.

Hours later, ONH fired a shot at a police Land Rover in west Belfast. The group then claimed it had also fired a horizontal mortar at the vehicle at the junction of the Glen Road and Suffolk Road.

Local people heard nothing.

“It would be impossible not to hear a mortar exploding on your doorstep. You’d hear it a mile, never mind a few yards, away,” a Glencolin resident said.

No explosion can be heard in the alleged video of the incident even though traffic noise is clearly audible.

A photograph was produced of one of the mobile phones which allegedly detonated the mortar as the Land Rover drove by.

But security and republican sources said a mobile phone would never be used to detonate a bomb against a moving – as opposed to a stationary – target in a heavily populated area.

Mobile phones have been used to detonate bombs against stationary targets like police bases. The explosives are wired to a mobile phone; a second phone is then used to call the wired phone. The small charge generated from the call sets off the bomb.

But a security source said: “Terrorists here always use command wires to detonate bombs against moving targets – it’s simple and less risky. Hit the switch and the bomb explodes immediately.

“It would be impossible to successfully use a mobile phone to detonate a bomb against a moving vehicle in a built-up urban area. How could they time it precisely to hit their target?

“It takes far too long for one phone to ring another. The target vehicle passes in a split second. There are so many other cars about, any could be hit.”