Source AP ©

Police detain gang that tried to raid armored vehicle

Seven people were arrested outside Ireland's capital Friday after a gang tried to raid an armored vehicle carrying more than 2 million EUR(US$2.9 million).

Police tracked the gang members to their intended ambush in Celbridge in County Kildare, which is west of Dublin.

Armed police caught the first two gang members as they were walking up behind the parked armored vehicle carrying metal-cutting saws.

The targeted vehicle had no security-firm insignia and was designed to look like an ordinary sport utility vehicle. It was about to deliver cash to a supermarket's automated teller machine.

Police said officers next arrested four suspected gang members waiting nearby in getaway vehicles. The last person arrested was an employee inside the security vehicle, who was suspected of colluding with the gang.

At least one gang member was carrying a fake handgun, while all four cars seized from the gang had been reported stolen, police said.

Police said they have spent weeks monitoring a gang in Finglas, northwest Dublin, suspected of involvement in a string of raids on cash-delivery vans dating back to 2003.

They said three of the people arrested were senior members of the Finglas gang, which is also involved in a bloody feud with other Dublin gangs over drug-trafficking rights.

Dublin gangs have mounted scores of raids on cash-delivery vans since 2003, usually hitting the targets as they arrive outside ATMs or post offices, which are distribution points for state welfare payments. The biggest raid in March 2005 netted the robbers 2.2 million EUR(US$2.85 million).

Dublin has about a dozen major gangs and police have been trying to suppress their activities for the past 2.5 years, setting up special road checkpoints and surveillance by undercover officers. The effort is called "Operation Anvil."

Police said a suspicious car was stopped Wednesday at a checkpoint in Kildare and officers found evidence that has led to ongoing searches of several properties, which have netted weapons, ammunition, masks and cocaine.

A man and woman, both in their 30s, have been arrested on suspicion of possessing some of the items.

"This operation is far from being concluded and a number of searches are continuing," police Supt. Kevin Donohoe said.