IRA Splinter Groups: More Attacks, Better Bombs

PHOTO: A fully assembled and ready-to-fire mortar
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Forty significant terror attacks against national security targets, including bomb blasts and shootings. More than 130 attempted bombings and 200 other incidents involving shootings, sectarian violence and threats against the police and the military.

That was Northern Ireland in 2010, not 1970.

That was the work of splinter Irish Revolutionary Army groups. It took place even as Gerry Adams, , leader of the political party associated with the old Provisional IRA, Sinn Fein, held elective office in Northern Ireland. Even as Martin McGuinness, once a military leader of the "Provos," sat as the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

With national and international attention focused on Al Qaeda, little has been written or broadcast in the U.S. about the re-emergence of Irish terror, but IRA splinter groups that reject the peace process are intent on a renewed campaign of violence. Irish Republican violence has reached levels not often seen since the Troubles, a 30-year era of sectarian strife that ended with the "Good Friday" peace agreement of 1998.

British authorities admit they underestimated the Irish. As recently as 2007, they had viewed the terror groups as a violent handful with little to no political support. "At that point," said Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, Britain's counterintelligence service, in a 2010 report, "our working assumption was that the residual threat from terrorism in Northern Ireland was low and likely to decline further as time went on and as the new constitutional arrangements there took root."

"Sadly, that has not proved to be the case," said Evans. "On the contrary, we have seen a persistent rise in terrorist activity and ambition in Northern Ireland over the last three years."

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Today, multiple British political, intelligence and law enforcement sources tell ABC News, there are about 600 members of the Real Irish Republican Army, the Continuity Irish Republican Army and other emerging splinter groups.

The threat from these newly invigorated groups led British authorities to raise the threat level from Irish-related terrorism in the U.K. from moderate to substantial.

Click Here to See Photos of 30 Years of Irish Republican Violence

Royal Wedding Weeks Away

With the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton just weeks away, and an Olympics in the summer of 2012 that will be attended by hundreds of thousands, British authorities are very concerned.

ABC News has learned that British officials have concrete intelligence that the terrorists want a strike in London in order to show their strength.

While there is no evidence that they seek an attack on the Royal Family, there is evidence that some members of the terror groups are inside England. And while British authorities don't think them capable of a sustained terror campaign, they do rate them capable of attacks.

In Ireland, bomb attacks and shootings attributed to them in the past two years have killed soldiers and police officers.

The newest wave of violence began with the March 2009 attack on a British Army barracks in Northern Ireland that killed two soldiers. The Real IRA claimed credit for the deadliest Irish Republican attack in more than a decade. Just two days later, the Continuity IRA took credit for the shooting death of a police officer in Craigavon.

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