A suspect package discovered at a postal depot in Ireland appeared to be identical to a series of devices mailed to addresses in the United Kingdom earlier this month that were claimed by the New IRA, police said on Friday, March 22.
The mail sorting office in the west coast city of Limerick was evacuated after the discovery shortly after 6 a.m. and the army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was called to the scene.
Police were “investigating a parcel of interest” that appeared to be “identical to parcels (pending closer forensic and ballistic examination) discovered earlier this month in London and Glasgow,” An Garda Síochána (Irish police) said in a release.
“An Garda Síochána continue to liaise with the U.K. Authorities in relation to these investigations,” it added.
The Irish Defence Forces said it had found “a viable improvised explosive device contained in a plastic envelope,” The Journal reported.
The Limerick Leader reported the parcel had been discovered in the National Returns Letter Centre.
The Gardai later released an image of the parcel which was addressed to “Charing Cross” in London, but marked return to sender. The packaging and stamps appeared identical to earlier parcel bombs discovered in London and Glasgow.
The parcel is dated March 5 by an affixed U.K. Royal Mail sticker.
On March 5, three suspicious packages were found in London – at an office block next to London Heathrow Airport, the post room at London Waterloo railway terminus, and at offices near London City Airport.
The following day, a fourth package was received at Glasgow University.
The packages had Irish stamps affixed and the return addresses were given as Dublin.
Police said on March 6 that the devices appeared capable of igniting an initially small fire when opened.
On March 12, the dissident Irish republican group known as the New IRA said it had sent five parcel bombs to addresses in the U.K.
The claim, in which a recognized codeword was used, was received by Belfast-based newspaper The Irish News.
The New IRA said three parcels were sent to “commercial targets,” the Irish News reported. Two others were posted to British Army recruitment officers, including the parcel sent to Glasgow University.
The New IRA is the largest dissident Irish republican paramilitary group. It was formed in 2012 after a merger of several smaller groups with the Real IRA.
In February 2014, the group claimed responsibility for devices sent to seven military recruitment centers across England, also with return addresses in Dublin.
The 1998 Good Friday or Belfast Agreement ended what is known as The Troubles, three decades of violence in Northern Ireland beginning in the late 1960s in which more than 3,500 people were killed, the majority by predominantly Catholic Irish republicans who want the reunification of Ireland, but also by Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, as well as the security forces.
The custom of using code words in telephoned warnings emerged around the Irish Republican Army bombing campaign in the early 1970s, to mark them out from possible hoaxes.
The IRA called a final ceasefire in 1997 and announced an end to its armed campaign in 2005, stating that it would seek to achieve its aims through peaceful political means, but various dissident Irish republican groups opposed to the peace process have continued to use the name IRA.
Police in Northern Ireland and Ireland have said that a return to a hard border on the island after Brexit could result in an increase in attacks by militant groups.
On March 7, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said it had uncovered a “significant” terrorist weapons hide containing mortar parts close to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In February, searches conducted by Gardai near Omeath, around 10 km (6 miles) east on the other side of the border, first uncovered a mortar tube and a “substantial” quantity of ammunition, and later explosives, firearms and a “sizeable” quantity of ammunition.
The operations on both sides of the border come after a car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in the the city of Derry in the northwest of Northern Ireland in January. The New IRA was blamed for that attack.
With reporting from AFP