Covert officers believed to be behind mortar seizure

UNDERCOVER officers using covert surveillance are believed to have been behind the seizure of an improvised mortar bomb in west Belfast.

A man was stopped as he was walking close to the junction of the Shaw's Road and Glen Road at around 11pm on Thursday.

A holdall containing what police described as an improvised explosive device (IeD) was seized and a 22-year-old man arrested.

The bomb, believed to be a mortar-style device and command wire, was taken away for forensic examination.

There were road closures and 12 families had to be moved from their homes during the alert.

A nearby flat close was also searched yesterday by forensic officers in a follow-up operation.

Two weeks ago the dissident group calling itself 'the IRA' launched a mortar with a command wire at a police Land Rover as it drove along the Falls Road.

While the devices are said to be similar in nature, the two incidents are not being linked.

Justice minister David Ford said the operation may have saved lives.

"How can any cause be served by putting a potentially deadly device in a built-up residential area?" he said.

DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said: "It is obviously significant that an arrest has been made but also that this device has been discovered intact and I would hope that will assist police in their efforts to disrupt these murderous groups."

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said "so-called republican micro groups have nothing positive to offer the community".

"West Belfast suffered enough during the conflict

without having unrepresentative groups holding the future of this community to ransom with random acts of violence."

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: "There is no support for this kind of destructive activity in our city. People are sick, sore and tired of being forced from their homes or having their elderly relatives forced out."

Meanwhile, police in east Belfast have retrieved a handgun, a silencer and ammunition during a search of properties in the Mount area of Ballymacarret, east Belfast.

Police said the searches were carried out as part of an ongoing policing operation against serious and organised crime in the area.


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