Thursday 26 June
Tony Blair was target of Real IRA plot, claims US spy
THE Real IRA considered murdering top British politicians, including Tony Blair, a court was told yesterday.
David Rupert, an American recruited by the FBI to spy on dissident republican groups, said he was asked to contact a former French Foreign Legionnaire who "was particularly good with weapons".
Mr Rupert told the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday that Michael McKevitt, the alleged founder and leader of the Real IRA, had told him about the man, known as James Smith.
He said: "McKevitt said he had worked with James Smith in South Africa on a weapons acquisition operation.
"Smith had run awry of the Provos and McKevitt said he had been able to spirit him out of South Africa and into the US, where he had become ‘a sleeper’.
"If they were going to do something on a plan to assassinate someone like Tony Blair, he was the type of person they would bring home to do it."
Mr Rupert said that he was directed by McKevitt to meet Mr Smith in Worcester, Massachusetts, and that Mr Smith gave him an arms catalogue to bring back to Ireland.
He and Mr Smith were also told to create arms dumps in the United States and to investigate ways of getting them into the hands of the Real IRA, including taking them across the Mexican border.
McKevitt, who denies charges of membership of an illegal organisation and directing terrorism, allegedly told Mr Rupert about the Real IRA’s other plans. Mr Rupert was told the group was waiting for the Provos to start decommissioning on a major scale before launching their new campaign.
He said: "He [McKevitt] was hoping to take the war to the steps of Stormont and the assembly and was hoping to take it to financial targets on the heart of the UK. He wanted the first hit to be special; to overshadow Omagh.
"They had been waiting and training to start a new campaign to do such enormous damage to the British that they would withdraw from the island."
"There were rumours that Gerry Adams was about to bring about decommissioning," he continued. "McKevitt said there would be massive grassroot disapproval and that there would be a coming-over of volunteers from the Provos, and with that they were going to time the start of their campaign.
"They had been licking their wounds in the training camps trying to regroup and train for the new campaign."
Mr Rupert claimed McKevitt also spoke of one of the bombs at Hammersmith Bridge, London, and said he had people there and it was designed to cause maximum disruption.
He added: "He also talked about the rocket attack on MI6 headquarters in London and said four or six MI6-type attacks a year would be a good rate."
The ceasefire called by the group after Omagh was, McKevitt allegedly said, "tactical, to provide them with time to re-group".
Mr Rupert claimed McKevitt returned later to the subject of Omagh, and said: "The hardcore slant of dissidents was being held back for the right time and the right venue to create an event that would significantly overshadow Omagh."
Mr Rupert, whose contract with the FBI and British security services was almost doubled to about £3,750 a month in 2000, said he became so trusted that he was taken to two meetings of the group’s ruling army council and attended a gathering of their "engineers", who made bombs and other devices.
He said that Colm Murphy, the only man so far convicted in direct connection with the Omagh atrocity, drove him to one of these meetings.
Mr Rupert claims that McKevitt also told him about defecting from the Provos. "He said he was quartermaster of the Provisional IRA and that when he left, most of the engineering staff and quartermaster staff came with him.
"He had control of all the arms dumps. Gerry Adams and his crowd didn’t know where they were but he knew it would only be a short time before he had to hand them over.
"He took as much opportunity as possible to take out the arms appropriate to modern warfare. He took ‘shorts’, pistols and Uzis and sub-machine-guns as well as Semtex and that type of material."
Mr Rupert added he was given lists of equipment to obtain in the US but he was told the dissidents were looking elsewhere. "McKevitt told me about his involvement in a Libyan arms deal and said he was upset with Colonel Gaddafi as he was trying to score points with Britain and gave his details to the Brits."
The trial continues.
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