New IRA leader Thomas Mellon led a dissident protest outside a PSNI station yesterday while detectives questioned three men about an attempt by the terrorist gang to assassinate police officers.
The paramilitary chief – who is on a 10-year MI5 watch list – was among a group of die-hard Republicans who picketed Saturday’s Strand Road train station in Derry City in support of New IRA prisoners.
At the same time, on Thursday evening, the police questioned three men in connection with a bomb attack in Strabane.
Saoradh, the New IRA’s political wing, has confirmed that one of those arrested is a party member.
Two officers escaped injury when a device containing a command wire was detonated in the Mount Carmel Heights area.
The car they were traveling in during a routine patrol suffered blast damage.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton confirmed that New IRA involvement was “a strong line of inquiry”.
The terrorist gang has been restructured in recent months in response to the damage done to it by MI5’s Operation Arbacia and double agent Dennis McFadden, who has put 10 of their suspected leaders behind bars.
For some time, the New IRA’s stronghold has been in the North West, where it is led by convicted paramilitary Thomas Mellon.
Although based in Derry, he oversees the terrorist gang’s operations in nearby Strabane, where the New IRA has a small unit, including a man in his 30s whom locals refer to as ‘Psycho’.
This group is accused of carrying out the recent police bombing.
Republican sources believe the New IRA assassination attempt was deliberately timed to coincide with Saoradh’s annual conference, which was held last week.
Convicted assassin Christy O’Kane was elected to the national executive board, as was spokesman Paddy Gallagher, who is currently on trial for alleged rioting the night the New IRA killed journalist Lyra McKee.
“This is the New IRA saying it’s ‘back in business’ but it’s nothing like that,” a Republican insider told Sunday Life.
“This so-called bomb in Strabane would never kill a police officer. It’s all show from Mellon to brag about how the New IRA is still going and to take credit for the protest outside the Strand Road barracks on Saturday.”
Republican sources believe the attack was also a “welcome gift” for convicted bomber Jason Ceulemans, who was released from prison Nov. 9.
The 51-year-old, who spent five years behind bars for possessing a New IRA mortar, had his early release license suspended in June for showing up at a riot in Derry.
Security chiefs also suspect Ceulemans planned an attack on police, which resulted in his being returned to prison.
But he’s back on the New IRA scene now after being released 10 days ago.
“Thomas Mellon will portray the Strabane attack as a welcome gift for Jason Ceulemans,” our source said.
“The New IRA have planned a big party for him in a pub in Derry in early December and he is being portrayed as a hero. It’s small stuff, and I doubt the peelers will be overly concerned.
“Except for a handful of vintage cars and inexperienced kids, the New IRA in Derry is complete,” the insider added.
“Republicans with sense are wondering why the New IRA is still on the move, just getting in the way of securing a border survey. It’s about stroking Mellon’s ego.”
Saoradh, the New IRA’s political wing, has condemned the arrest of three men in connection with the Strabane bombing. In a statement, she sent “solidarity to those imprisoned by this union militia and look forward to their release.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/new-ira-boss-mellon-pickets-psni-station-day-after-gangs-murder-bid-on-cops-42160524.html New IRA chief Mellon goes on strike a day after a gang’s bid to kill police officers at the PSNI train station