Gardai (police) in the Republic believe they have thwarted plans by dissident Republicans to launch a series of bomb attacks in Northern Ireland.
They found more than 440 pounds of ground fertilizer being readied for use in a huge bomb at a farmhouse near Hackballscross, Co. Louth. The fertilizer was in a number of bags waiting to be mixed with other components necessary to make them explosive.
Special Branch detectives, acting on Intelligence information, also found an improvised mortar bomb. It contained some home-made explosive but was not primed for immediate use. They also found a metal launcher tube.
Security chiefs are convinced dissident Republicans were preparing a series of attacks on military personnel and Loyalist areas in the North in the run-up to July 12 Orange Order marches.
Detectives told the Irish Independent they believed the explosives were being made for a breakaway Republican faction led by a close associate of jailed Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt.
Anti-terrorist officers said the material was likely to have been used for a series of mortar attacks on security force targets in the North. It could also have been readied for a massive bomb attack.
Inquiries are under way to establish if the find was linked to another bomb component find at the M1 motorway in Louth a couple of months ago.
The latest find, by officers attached to Operation Designer, a specialist unit deployed for the past two years in the border area, was made during a search of a farmhouse and outhouses near the border at Hackballscross. Two men in their fifties were arrested at the scene and held for questioning at Balbriggan and Drogheda Garda (police) stations.
This brings the number of suspected dissidents arrested by the Gardai to eight during a six-day period.
The other six, suspected members of a rival faction in the Real IRA, were arrested following another lengthy Garda operation against subversives operating in the border region.
Special Branch officers who discovered the explosives materials were backed up in their raid by the Emergency Response Unit, personnel from the crime and security branch and local Gardai in Louth and Meath.
An Army bomb disposal team spent more than six hours at the scene before declaring it safe.