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Report: Northern Ireland militant group working with Lebanon Hezbollah

A man walks past a Republican mural in the Bogside area of Derry on March 22, 2017. [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]
A man walks past a Republican mural in the Bogside area of Derry on March 22, 2017. [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]

Intelligence gathered by the UK security services shows the New IRA, a dissident Irish republican group in Northern Ireland, could have ties to Hezbollah and other militant groups in the Middle East, a report by the Times claims.

The Middle Eastern groups may be providing the New IRA, which is also known as the Irish Republican Army, with both funds and weapons, including mortars and assault rifles, according to the report.

Intelligence services "on both sides of the Irish border", the Times said, believe ties between Ireland and Middle Eastern organisations are being used for the illicit importation of arms, though no direct evidence to support this claim has been uncovered.

The information was gathered in a 20-year covert MI5 investigation, called Operation Arbacia, run by Dennis McFadden, a former special police constable from Scotland who was exposed last month after two decades of spying on dissidents.

Operation Arbacia uncovered evidence the New IRA had communicated with Hezbollah and some Palestinian organisations as early as 2017. McFadden also discovered Irish republicans had travelled to Lebanon in 2018, where they met Hezbollah members, according to the Times.

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Members of Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA, also signed a book of condolences to mark the assassination of Iran's Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport on 3 January, at the Iranian embassy in Dublin in January this year.

The signing was witnessed by McFadden and confirmed to the Times by the embassy last week.

Employees, however, denied any official meetings with Saroadh members had taken place and said the embassy had no knowledge of meetings between Irish republicans and militant groups based in Lebanon.

McFadden, who was reportedly well known to members of the New IRA leadership, has now entered a witness protection programme.

The Times said McFadden's withdrawal from MI5 was because intelligence he gathered led to the arrest of ten people, including a Palestinian doctor, in Northern Ireland on terrorism-related charges last month.

Those eight men and two women arrested include Saoradh vice-chairperson Mandy Duffy and Derry chairperson Joe Barr as well as several prominent IRA members.

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