There is speculation that the so-called Real IRA was intending to attack tomorrow's Apprentice Boys' parade in Derry with the 500lbs of explosives recovered from a van in County Donegal. The van was pursued by the RUC as far as the border after it crashed through a police checkpoint in Derry city centre. The driver of the vehicle escaped. The explosives, which were packed into two milk churns, were made safe by army specialists.
The SDLP leader, John Hume, said that those behind the failed attack were fascists. The Northern Ireland Office Minister, Adam Ingram, claimed that Republican and Loyalist hardliners were attempting to frustrate the desire of the overwhelming majority of the population for peace.
The RUC pursued a white Astra van after it crashed through a routine police checkpoint on the Foyle road outside Derry just before half past eight last night. The vehicle crossed the border into Donegal and was later found abandoned between Killea and Carrigans. The Explosive Ordinance Disposal team examined the vehicle, which was rendered safe just before 5am this morning. A detailed search of the van uncovered in excess of half a tonne of home made explosives, as well as related materials that army sources indicate would "serious cause for concern". A second vehicle, which was also followed by the RUC across the Derry-Donegal road at Manorstown near Killea, is currently being examined by the army. The find comes just a matter of days before the 2nd anniversary of the Omagh bomb.
The incident was one of a number dealt with by the RUC last night. Police officers in Belfast escaped injury after they disrupted a show of strength by the Ulster Freedom Fighters off the Shankill Road overnight, during which shots were fired. The police were responding to reports that a number of gunshots had been fired in the area.
A concrete block was thrown through the window of a police vehicle during a pursuit of four armed and masked men who had called journalists to the Lower Shankill Road area to witness the UFF show of strength. Local youths hurled stones and missiles at police as they arrived to confront the paramilitaries. A shot was fired at police from the nearby Boundary Way area, but no one was injured and no arrests were made.
John White from the Ulster Democratic Party, which has links with the UFF, has said that the Loyalist group has informed him that the show of strength is connected to a renewed threat on the part of the UDA. They have threatened to attack Nationalists in retaliation for what they claim to be an upsurge in sectarian attacks on Protestant homes in North and West Belfast.
Around the same time as the UFF display, windows were broken and paint was thrown at a number of houses in the Nationalist area of North Belfast, just off the Crumlin Road. An elderly woman was later treated for cuts and bruises to her stomach and legs. A man in his forties is also recovering after he sustained gunshot wounds to both hands during a paramilitary style attack in South Belfast. A woman needed medical attention after she was struck by glass after shots were fired into her home in Coleraine just before midnight.