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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
IRA denies role in security breach
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
The IRA has denied any involvement in a security breach at Belfast's police headquarters.

Close to 200 Special Branch officers have been told they are at greater risk of terrorist attack following the theft of documents from the Castlereagh complex.

A Special Branch officer was also assaulted when three men entered an office inside the east Belfast complex on St Patrick's Day.

Despite denials by Sinn Fein, security sources are continuing to link the IRA to the raid.

However, on Monday a republican source told the BBC that the IRA leadership "categorically denied" any involvement in the incident.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid described the IRA's denial as "interesting".

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
John Reid: Described IRA denial as "interesting"

He added: "At the end of the day, this will be based on the evidence."

The theft occurred in an office which is used as a "link-point" for security force informers and their police handlers.

Among the documents taken was an index book listing the ranks, names and telephone numbers of Special Branch officers.

However, the information taken did not include their addresses.

Details on other officers not attached to Special Branch were also listed in the book.

Special Branch officers have been briefed and told that the threat assessment following the breach was being upgraded.

But security sources said officers had not been advised to leave their homes.

Sinn Fein said a warning to Special Branch officers following the breach was an "expensive smokescreen".

'Inside job'

On Sunday, the party's spokesman on policing, Gerry Kelly, said that the officers would already have high risk security status.

Mr Kelly said he was adamant that the security breach was an "inside job".

Security sources told the BBC on Saturday there was no other major line of inquiry than that linking the IRA to the security breach.

Last week, detectives investigating the breach travelled to the United States to question a former employee at the complex.

The man police wanted to question left his job in the kitchens at Castlereagh a number of weeks before the incident.

Security sources said detectives had been liaising with the American authorities.

Two separate investigations into the incident are taking place - the police's own and an inquiry by former senior civil servant Sir John Chilcot who will report directly to Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.

Days after the breach, it emerged that the office was only moved to that room from another part of the building a week previously because the complex was being refurbished.

Special Branch deals with intelligence work, some relating to informers, and has an anti-terrorism role in Northern Ireland.

One of the main police centres for the interrogation of terrorist suspects was located at Castlereagh. It closed at the end of 1999.

See also:

07 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
Security upgrade a 'smokescreen'
06 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
Officers warned of greater terror risk
03 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
US move in security breach inquiry
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Police security breach review heads
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Security breach inquiries 'damaging'
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Informers: A dangerous assignment
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