BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Ireland police set up road blocks and boosted patrols across the British province on Tuesday in a security operation aimed at countering a “severe” threat from pro-Irish militants before Thursday’s general election.
Elections have in the past been targeted by “dissident” militants opposed to a 1998 peace deal. That deal largely ended three decades of sectarian violence between mainly Protestant pro-British unionists and Catholic Irish Republicans.
“The dissident Republican threat remains severe,” Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin told journalists on Tuesday. “The PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) will have an enhanced profile in local communities to provide safety and reassurance to everyone.”
Several attacks have occurred in recent weeks, though no one has been seriously injured. Two bombs, which police said were designed to kill or maim, partly exploded outside an army base on Sunday night.
Earlier in the weekend, the home of Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Irish nationalist Martin McGuinness, was vandalised with paint bombs. Threats have been made by dissidents against the lives of other members of his Sinn Fein party.
Northern Ireland’s 18 seats could prove crucial in the formation of the next British government, with the province’s largest party, the Democratic Unionist Party, hoping to hold the balance of power with up to 10 seats.
Reporting by Ian Graham; Editing by Conor Humphries, Larry King