Jonathan Evans, director of Britain's MI5 internal intelligence agency, said in a rare public speech Sept. 16 that attacks on the UK are increasingly likely to emanate from Somalia, Yemen or Belfast, as al-Qaeda-linked groups flee strongholds in Pakistan. The spy chief said the 2012 London Olympic Games will likely be a major target, and warned that dissidents who reject Northern Ireland's peace process could strike mainland British cities for the first time since 2001.
Speaking before the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals in the City, Evans said while MI5's "main effort" remains focused on international terrorism, it has been necessary to reinforce its presence in Northern Ireland to deal with the heightened threat. He acknowledged the recent rise in activity by dissident Republicans had not been foreseen, having been assumed just three years ago to be "low and likely to decline further".
Said Evans: "Perhaps we were giving insufficient weight to the pattern of history over the last hundred years which shows that whenever the main body of Irish Republicanism has reached a political accommodation and rejoined constitutional politics, a hard-liner rejectionist group would fragment off and continue with the so-called 'armed struggle.'"
Since the start of the year there have been more than 30 attacks or attempted attacks on "national security targets" by dissident Republicans, compared with just over 20 for the whole of last year, he said. (AP, UKPA, Sept. 16)
In a statement earlier this year, the "Real IRA" (RIRA) wrote: "The Irish Republican Army will continue to carry out armed attacks against the British military and political apparatus in Ireland and those who assist in anyway their illegal occupation."
The RIRA statement also claimed British intelligence agencies were behind a series of sectarian attacks which have been blamed on Republicans: "The last year has seen a marked increase in the activities of MI5 inspired counter gangs masquerading as republicans, these gangs will be seen for what they are by the republican base and their attempts to bring the republican movement into disrepute will not be tolerated. It is also clear that such groups are behind an increase in sectarian attacks across the six counties, sectarianism is anathema to republicanism and serves the interests of British imperialism in Ireland, not the republican position." (InfoShop News, Sept. 15)
Sectarian riots in Northern Ireland over four days in July are revealed to have cost £2.2 million in police expenditures. The most serious unrest was in Ardoyne, where rioters clashed with police following an Orange Order parade on July 12. (BBC News, Sept. 17)