LONDON (AP) - Three senior Irish dissidents were arrested and charged with a range of serious and rarely used terror offenses, Northern Irish police said Friday.
The three men, ages 41, 42 and 42, were charged with offenses such as conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause an explosion, preparation of terrorist acts and collecting information of use to terrorism.
Northern Irish police said the men were arrested in Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, on Monday as part of a "proactive investigation" into dissident republican terrorist activity.
Police said some of the charges have seldom been used in the past in Northern Ireland.
British intelligence has stepped up efforts in Northern Ireland recently. And law enforcement officials believe Irish dissidents could pose a threat to the Olympic games, which will be held between July 28 and August 7. The Olympic torch is passing through one of the most heavily bombed streets in Northern Ireland in early June.
But a British official said the three men arrested Monday are not believed to have been planning attacks on the Olympics, torch relay, or Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his job said the charges were still significant as Irish dissidents were rarely charged with preparation of terrorist acts. He said the operation showed that Britain was using techniques used to fight threats posed by groups such as Al Qaeda to tackle problems in Northern Ireland.
Last fall, a Lithuanian judge found an Irish man guilty of trying to buy weapons and explosives in a six-year sting orchestrated by Britain's domestic spy agency MI5 - a case that drew attention to a hardcore Irish Republican Army splinter group's plans to spread terror to London.
Judge Arunas Kisielus of the Vilnius Regional Court sentenced Michael Campbell - a 39-year-old with alleged links to the Real IRA group - to 12 years in prison for weapons offenses and supporting a terrorist group.
The three recently arrested men will appear in court Saturday. Police said another three men and a woman who were arrested May 12 as part of the same investigation are still in custody.