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Terror Networks

There are networks of terrorist networks, as was evident when five of Real IRA's French connection were arrested in France. French police arrested five people in northwestern France suspected of supporting a dissident Irish republican group, the Real IRA.

A police spokeswoman said the five French nationals were arrested in Brittany and Normandy. Police found a cache of arms during the raid. The five were detained as part of a probe into the Real IRA opened by the anti-terrorist division of the Paris public prosecutor's office following a tip-off from British authorities, an official at the prosecutor's office said. Officers from the DST counter-intelligence agency found a sub-machinegun, an automatic weapon, and two silencers buried in a forest on the outskirts of the coastal town of Dieppe.

The location had been under surveillance for several weeks. Initial inquiries found no link between those arrested and Breton nationalist movements, some of which have links to the Basque separatist group ETA. The five had no criminal records, the public prosecutor's office said.

"Surveillance conducted over several months shows these people had direct telephone contacts with people suspected of belonging to the Real IRA. There were comings and goings between France and Ireland," said the official.

The mainstream Irish Republican Army (IRA) has called a cease-fire in its campaign to drive Britain out of Northern Ireland, but the Real IRA, a splinter group, still mounts sporadic attacks. It has claimed responsibility for the 1998 Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people and injured 200 in the deadliest single attack in 30 years of violence.

The leader of the Real IRA, Michael McKevitt, was jailed for 20 years in August after a court in the Irish Republic found him guilty of directing terrorism, a charge created after the Omagh bombing. Under French anti-terrorist provisions, the suspects can be held for four days before they are either put under formal investigation - one step short of charges - or released. (Reuters, 11/5/03))

Ronald Hilton - 11.15.03