Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

IRA chieftain targeted as police hunt smugglers

March 10, 2006

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— More than 300 police backed by British and Irish troops mounted dawn raids Thursday on the home turf of Thomas "Slab" Murphy, reputedly the Irish Republican Army's veteran chief of staff and its most lucrative smuggler.

The operation was by far the biggest mounted around Murphy's farm and fuel distribution business.

Its size underscored the importance officials place on prosecuting Murphy, who for decades has inspired fear and obedience in "bandit country," the IRA's lawless power base along the Northern Ireland border.

North of the meandering border, officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland said they searched six houses and businesses in Crossmaglen, the de facto capital of bandit country, and the nearby village of Keady.

To the south, concentrating on farmhouses near the crossroads of Hackballscross, customs officers and detectives from the Garda Siochana, the Irish Republic's police force, said they raided nine properties.

Both forces inspected Murphy's home, which lies midway between Crossmaglen and Hackballscross, but it was not known if he was there at the time. His properties straddle the border.

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