The seizure of weapons and ammunition in a series of police swoops in Northern Ireland has dealt a significant blow to the capacity of dissident republicans, a detective has said.
Community information led police to many of the arms found in 13 searches in counties Tyrone and Armagh in a 12-day period, Detective Superintendent John McVea said.
The total haul recovered included two shotguns and four handguns, explosives, fertiliser, ammunition, tools, an improvised detonator, a suspected mortar tube, component parts for bomb making, mobile phones and other terrorist paraphernalia.
Police believe the weapons belonged to two separate dissident organisations – with the explosives recovered in Benburb belonging to the little known grouping Arm na Poblachta (army of the republic) and the remainder of the weapons controlled by the Continuity IRA in Lurgan.
As well as searches at eight houses and two derelict properties, items were also recovered from the derelict site of St Michael’s High School in Lurgan and in fields and hedgerows near St Coleman’s Cemetery in the town.
“We have recovered a significant amount of dangerous weapons,” said Mr McVea, who works in the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Terrorism Investigation Unit.
“Many of these highly dangerous items were found in locations where members of the public could easily have come across them. This demonstrates the sheer recklessness and absolute lack of concern these terrorists have about harming people living in these communities.”
Mr McVea noted that the discovery in Lurgan marked the second haul of Continuity IRA weapons seized in Lurgan in recent years.
A rusty pipe bomb found on Tarry Drive in Lurgan was placed beside a nursery school.
“Who in their right mind would put the lives of young children at risk?” said the detective.
He added: “The searches also send a clear message to those involved in terrorism that we will continue to disrupt their heinous activities so that our communities can live in peace and without fear. They do not want you in their midst putting their lives and those of their children at risk.”