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chilling threat New IRA instructs units to target prison officers following failed bomb bid on policewoman

The order came as the Sunday World learned that reputed terror boss Thomas Ashe Mellon was arrested and is due in court after a swoop by anti-terror cops    

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Thomas Ashe Mellon

Thomas Ashe Mellon

Thomas Ashe Mellon

Dissident terror chiefs have ordered all units in Northern Ireland to begin targeting prison officers, the Sunday World has learned.

The order came as the Sunday World learned that reputed terror boss Thomas Ashe Mellon was arrested and is due in court after a swoop by anti-terror cops.

The New IRA's HQ put out the deadly briefing to all local gang leaders in Belfast, Tyrone and Newry in the last number of weeks.

Rank-and-file members have been told to hold off on launching further deadly attacks on police officers after the failed bomb bid on a part-time PSNI woman in Co Derry last month.

"They know that there's too much vigilance and security around cops at the minute after the Dungiven attack and so prison officers are considered easier targets," a senior Derry dissident told this newspaper.

"There's also anger around the treatment of republicans currently locked up in Maghaberry. So all units have been told to immediately begin gathering as much info on any serving screws in their areas - male or female - as they can.

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Police search Mellon’s car

Police search Mellon’s car

Police search Mellon’s car

 

"The attack on the policewoman was seen as a failure and so they say they want the next bombing or shooting to be a success - they want to cause ructions and they want blood."

The chilling threat comes as the terror gang continues to spiral under heavy police and MI5 pressure, combined with mistrust and fall-outs within its own ranks.

The Sunday World can reveal that last month senior Derry dissident Thomas Ashe Mellon was arrested at a hotel close to the border for allegedly breaching strict terror legislation.

Mellon - who reportedly sits on the New IRA's army council - is bound under the Counter-Terrorism Act to report his movements, including travel and nights away, to the PSNI.

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The strict terror-fighting bill requires anyone convicted of or suspected of being involved in terrorist-related offences to hand over their passport, National Insurance and bank account details.

Those placed on the so-called 'terror register' are subject to monitoring for a minimum of 10 years.

Anyone who breaches the terms of that order can be prosecuted.

Mellon had been sitting at the bar enjoying drinks with a woman when a PSNI team swooped in and arrested him in front of shocked staff and punters.

According to a statement released by Saoradh - a group widely believed to be the New IRA's political wing - Mellon, referred to as a "republican activist", was taken away for questioning for more than four hours before being charged with a number offences. It's understood the charges relate to the dissident allegedly failing to inform police of his hotel stay and failing to disclose information on two bank accounts.

A PSNI spokesperson confirmed: "A 45-year-old man was charged with three counts 'Failing to notify police of required information under Counter-Terrorism Act 2008'.

"He is expected to appear at Londonderry Magistrates Court on June 24.

"The charges follow an arrest in the Newry area on May 28."

The Saoradh statement added that the 45-year-old was again stopped by police enroute to his Derry home from his night away under "draconian" stop and search powers.

Posting images of Mellon's car being searched by police, the group said: "Saoradh Doire would urge all Republicans to be vigilant.

"Crown Force harassment and attempted intimidation of family members won't deter our membership from legitimate political activism within working class areas."

The security services' offensive against the dissident gang has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and charges of suspected terror members.

Following the 2020 arrests of 10 suspects in the ongoing Dennis McFadden double agent probe, the gang was forced to restructure and put in place new leaders.

One of those promoted, sources say, was Mellon who is believed to now sit on the gang's 10-man inner army council after years of leading its Derry unit.

Former Provo Fergal Melaugh was put in place to take over Mellon's reign, it's understood.

Melaugh (62) was one of a number of high-ranking dissidents arrested over the failed bomb attempt on the female police officer at her Dungiven countryside home in April. He was later released without charge.     

His arrest, alongside that of Kieran McCool - the man named in court as the New IRA's main bomb-maker - sparked fears of a top-level police informant within the organisation's tight-knit Derry brigade.

McCool (52) was charged last month with five offences, including three of possessing improvised explosive devices on dates between December 2015 and April this year.

He appeared in court where detectives said the explosive devices charges related to the failed bomb attack on the police officer in Dungiven, a device found on the Skeoge Road in Derry in July 2016 and a mortar discovered in Strabane in September 2019.

The police officer told Derry Magistrates Court he believed McCool was a "bomb-maker on behalf of the New IRA" and had been involved in a series of incidents going back to 2015.

McCool was remanded into custody on the alleged offences but has since been released on bail after agreeing to wear a tag - a no-go for dissidents.

The senior Derry source said: "McCool could not hack a few weeks in jail and broke. He agreed to the tag, something republicans just do not do as it's seen as a badge of criminality.

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Dennis McFadden

Dennis McFadden

Dennis McFadden

 

"It shows you the state of things in Derry at the moment. The mistrust and paranoia was huge after McFadden was unmasked as a double agent, but Derry had not much to do with him and did not worry much.

"So the latest arrests mean there is someone else, someone more senior than McFadden, who is working with the security forces. As a result, younger, more inexperienced men are being put into roles and given titles to take it away from the senior men, who are happy to pull the strings but are too scared of doing time. That was great for the young fellas at the start but as time went on they didn't like being dictated to and started to get fed up."

The Sunday World also understands that Jude McCrory has walked from his post as Saoradh's Derry chair. In a huge blow for the group's dwindling numbers, the 25-year-old is said to have taken around six like-minded young activists with him.

"Numbers have also dropped in Belfast and Newry, people are walking away," said the source.

"There was hope that in Derry, the disgust aimed at Sinn Féin over the treatment of MLAs Karen Mullan and Martina Anderson, a few people would come Saoradh's way - not one person has. The outlook is not good and a lot of people are starting to realise that.

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