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Nine arrested after cops swoop on Saoradh offices

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Key player: Alex McCrory

Key player: Alex McCrory

Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

Raid: Saoradh offices in Newry

Raid: Saoradh offices in Newry

Raid: Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

Raid: Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

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Key player: Alex McCrory

THIS is the incredible moment anti-terror cops moved in on the offices of dissident republican group Saoradh in one of the biggest ever operations against the New IRA.

PSNI teams are pictured swarming the Newry offices of the political group, seizing documents and electronic devices as dissident supporters gathered outside.

In confrontational scenes, mobile phones were held up to the faces of officers, as investigators trawled through the St Mary's Street premises as part of joint MI5 and PSNI probe Operation Arabacia.

The images were captured on Wednesday at the same time as three other Saoradh offices across the north were targeted.

They show officers sifting through documents inside the office which is adorned with republican memorabilia, including pictures of Bobby Sands.

Premises in Belfast, Dungannon and Derry were raided in similar scenes after seven men and two women were arrested on suspicion of terror offences.

Properties in Dublin, Laois Cork and Kerry were also searched by gardaĆ­ as part of the cross-border operation.

The individuals, all aged between 26 and 50, were arrested in the early hours of Tuesday in Derry, Tyrone and Armagh.

Many of the suspects are senior members of the political group, set up in 2016 to "effect an end to Britain's illegal occupation of the six counties".

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Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

nHours after the arrests, top dissident Alex McCrory said the move was a bid to wipe out the hardline republican group.

nSpeaking to German news outlet Neues Deutschland, McCrory said: "The British state has been taking action against Saoradh since it was founded.

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Raid: Saoradh offices in Newry

Raid: Saoradh offices in Newry

Raid: Saoradh offices in Newry

"This action is now an attempt to destroy the organisation." And it emerged that one individual is now suspected of actively assisting police in the probe.

The British-born man suspected of being MI5's agent - who had close links with IRA killer Tony Catney who died in 2016 - has not been seen at his west Belfast home since last Wednesday.

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Raid: Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

Raid: Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

Raid: Anti-terror officers at the Newry premises

He has since been accused by those within his own dissident republicans ranks of being an informer. Yesterday, a number of threats targeting him were posted on social media.

The New IRA is the largest and most active of the armed groups opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.

It was formed in 2012 after a merger between the now defunct Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs and a group of independent republicans.

It has been behind numerous attempted attacks on police officers and the murder of a journalist last year.

Lyra McKee was shot dead by a New IRA gunman while observing a riot in Creggan area of Derry on April 18, 2019.