DUBLIN, Ireland — Thousands of soldiers and police scoured the Irish countryside today for a huge arms cache following intelligence reports that four shiploads of weapons had been sent to the Irish Republican Army.
Justice Minister Gerry Collins said one of the shipments was loaded "off the shores of Libya" and the others off the nearby Mediterranean island of Malta. Asked if Libya supplied the weapons, he replied:"As of right now that hasn't been proved."
He said security forces were searching for an arsenal larger than a 150- to 200-ton consignment seized by French customs on Oct. 30 aboard the Panamanian-registered vessel Eksund. Police said it was destined for the IRA.
The arms allegedly were delivered in four loads over the last two years.
Irish police said they arrested three people who tried to prevent them from seizing files in a raid on the Dublin office of Sinn Fein, the legal political wing of the outlawed IRA. They said they also raided Sinn Fein's Cork office and houses in Counties Wexford and Wicklow.