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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

FLAVIUS

Code name for an MI5 surveillance operation conducted in March 1988 that resulted in the deaths of three well-known Provisional Irish Republican Army terrorists—Danny McCann, Seán Savage, and Mairéad Farrell—in  Gibraltar. Savage was a bomb maker who had served a month in prison in 1982; McCann,  imprisoned for two years for possession of a detonator, had shot two Special Branch officers dead and wounded a third in a bar in August 1987; and Farrell had served 10 and a half years for a hotel bombing in 1976. The three were members of a team of four bombers who planned to detonate a massive car bomb in the center of Gibraltar at the Changing of the Guard. With many tourists there, the atrocity would have claimed many lives, but MI5 had been monitoring the movements of the team since they left republican West  Belfast, Northern Ireland, carrying false travel documents. All four were seen conducting a reconnaissance of their intended target. Their parking of a suspect vehicle, a white Renault 5, nearby was assessed—erroneously as it later turned out—to be a remotely controlled device that would be initiated by a wireless signal. As three of the terrorists walked toward the border with Spain after parking the car, a four-man 22nd  Special Air Service patrol, believing they had been spotted, opened fire on the three, killing them. It later emerged that the  trio were unarmed and were not equipped with a remote detonator. The real car bomb was found 30 miles away in an underground parking garage in Malaga; it had been packed with a record 145 pounds of
Semtex explosives, with an unattached timer and detonator set to the precise time of the guard change in  Gibraltar.