Police accused the Irish Republican Army of creating "another Beirut" in Belfast by unleashing a spree of violence across the province that injured 30 people, left burned-out trucks and buses strewn across roads and turned shops into rubble.
But the British government refused to back down in the face of the IRA's bloodiest campaign in years and put the word out that it will pay informers up to $170,000 each for high-grade information to counter terrorism, sources said Monday.Until recently, security forces were able to target IRA activists through a network of informers who faced execution if caught by the IRA. The informers were paid sums that typically ranged from about $17 to several hundred dollars, with four-figure sums going only for high-grade information.
In recent months, the outlawed IRA has reorganized its active service units into a network of independent cells, which has made it virtually impossible for security forces to pinpoint activists, prompting the government to up its payments for the harder-to-get information, sources said.
In the past year, police have found the bodies of three informers - all bound and gagged with bullet wounds to the head - who were executed by the IRA.
The IRA is fighting to end British rule in mostly Protestant Northern Ireland so it can be united with the Catholic republic. Nine British servicemen have been killed in IRA attacks in Northern Ireland in this month alone.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Northern Irish police force, released figures Monday showing that the IRA staged 227 attacks on police, 27 shootings, 21 bombings and 88 hijackings of vehicles, many of which were torched, in a violent weekend protesting the extradition of an IRA man to Northern Ireland.
Twenty police officers, nine civilians and a soldier were injured in Northern Ireland in the worst IRA street violence in years, an RUC spokesman said. Forty-three people were arrested.