Dissident Republicans have been thwarted in their bid to stage an Omagh-style attack on a border town but may try to strike again.
The Sunday Times reports that Friday’s apprehension of a 500lb bomb abandoned just outside Newry is linked to plans for another major atrocity.
Police in Northern Ireland have confirmed to the paper that the massive bomb was dumped under the main Belfast-Dublin road due to security activity in the area in the wake of the murder of Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) described the device as "sophisticated and substantial" and claimed it is linked to a new dissident Republican movement under investigation for the Kerr killing a week ago.
The bomb was discovered in a van and police believe it was destined for another town center attack similar to the Omagh bomb which killed 29 people and unborn twins in 1998.
The device was built in a wheelie bin and police believe it was being transported to its intended destination when the bombers panicked in the wake of increased security activity.
The van had been stolen in the Kildare town of Maynooth in January and fitted with false Donegal registration plates.
The British Army carried out several controlled explosions before the device, 200lbs heavier than the bomb used in Omagh, was declared safe.
PSNI Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson told the Sunday Times: “Had it exploded it would have caused huge devastation or loss of life.”