Attack was well-planned, says expert (NewsLetter)

Claims that dissident republicans are “mindless and have no strategy” are very wrong, a security source said last night.

Speaking to the News Letter hours after long-serving prison officer David Black was murdered in a motorway ambush by dissident republicans, the source said: “I can believe what happened given the number of dissidents who have been released from jail.

“In the history of these people they have a point to make when they get out. It is a surprise it has happened so soon.

“But then you had the Secretary of State making unwise comments about the security situation.”

On Wednesday Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said dissident republican attacks had fallen by 20 per cent this year.

She added: “The sophistication and potency of attacks is on the whole lower than in 2011 although there have been some exceptions to this.”

The murdered prison officer had more than 30 years’ service in the Prison Service and was approaching retirement.

The security source said that while there are only a few dozen dissident republicans “who are capable of carrying out this type of attack”, their supporters are growing.

“People say they [dissident republicans] are mindless and have no strategy – but that is not the case,” he said.

“It is quite clear they are going nowhere, but they are clever in that they only have to carry out one of these attacks every so often.”

He said that, as well as learning about terrorism in prison, he would argue they were learning a lot about police methodologies.

“They get smart because they find out more how to evade detection. That is why it becomes harder and harder to convict them.

“But I do know that if this was happening on the mainland it wouldn’t be tolerated.”

He said there was “a distinct feeling this is a build-up of pressure on the prison service to highlight the case of Marian Price”.

He added: “You can rest assured there is a reason that someone has gone out and shot David Black.

“It will have been a carefully thought-out strategy.

“On a wider front there was a suspect device at Sprucefield which was probably to open up the motorway and leave it free for the attack. This shows a level of sophistication.”

And the security source added: “It also points to the number of people who were involved in this – and their capability.

“There is a web of possibilities in this.”

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