In 1986 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) used a JCB digger with its front bucket loaded with explosives, to ram into a Police Station before detonating it. So one year later, reports of a stolen JCB alerted the Security Services that another devastating IRA attack could be in preparation.
E4A, the Royal Ulster Constabulary's (RUC) covert intelligence unit, found the stolen digger hidden on a farm and based on further intelligence believed that the IRA in East Tyrone was behind hatching a plot. This belief was given further credence when reports came in of a blue Toyota van being stolen by masked men. Such a modus operandi had been used before to facilitate the transport of IRA terrorists to large scale attacks.
Further intelligence gathering confirmed that an attack had been planned and also revealed the place. It was to be the RUC Police Station at Loughgall in County Armagh. A surveillance team was tasked with monitoring the JCB to give warning of when the attack was underway.
On Friday 8th May 1987, close to Loughgall, the JCB was moved from the farm building where it had been hidden. A small number of RUC officers were left in the police station as decoys, along with some members of the Special Forces regiment of the British Army, the Special Air Service (SAS). They would be warned when to take cover or join the ambush. Outside the police station more SAS troopers laid in wait to ambush the IRA terrorists if they commenced an attack.