THE PSNI believe Gardai have thwarted a Christmas bomb blitz on Belfast stores by violent dissident republicans.
Only last month senior PSNI officers issued a province-wide warning to the public that dissidents were plotting to bring this Christmas to shoppers and traders.
Now that warning has proved correct after officers from the Gardas anti-terrorist Special Detective Unit (SDU) seized a number of fire bombs earlier this week.
Heavily armed detectives swooped on three well-known dissident IRA figures in Co Louth on Tuesday afternoon following a lengthy surveillance operation on both sides of the border.
At first, the devices seized were thought to have been designed for attacks on PSNI officers and vehicles.
But security sources in Northern Ireland said Gardai have now provided information to say the devices were in fact “sophisticated and elaborate”.
And they say the sophisticated firebomb devices were earmarked for shopping stores in Belfast to wreck havoc and terror to shoppers and business owners.
A senior security source said: “From what the Gardai tell us, it looks like they have a new bomber on their books.
“They say they have never seen these devices before. They are telling us what we should now be looking out for because this a whole new type of device.”
The Continuity IRA are believed to have recruited a new bomber in recent months to design and perfect a range of devices to attack the security forces and commercial targets.
Tonight, the three leading dissident republicans are still in Garda custody.#
Two are being held in Drogheda Garda station after their car was stopped heading north to Northern Ireland with two firebombs on board..
The third man, a former Provisional IRA bomber who has joined the ranks of the dissidents, is also still in custody.
Police believe he is the master bomb maker behind the devices found in the car following a secret handover.