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Ballymurphy Semtex was from old Libyan Provo arms shipment

Kevin Nolan (45), who appeared in court charged with possession of explosives in suspicious circumstances and with intent to endanger life

Semtex discovered in west Belfast was from an old batch thought to be left over from a Libyan shipment to the Provisional IRA, the Irish News has learned.

Kevin Nolan (45), originally from west Belfast but with an address at Whitchurch Close in Sunderland, appeared in court yesterday charged with possession of half a kilo of the plastic explosive.

He is also accused of possession of two guns, two detonators and more than 200 rounds of ammunition discovered at a house on Ballymurphy Road on Friday.

The appearance came as a mortar which police said could have caused "serious injury" was found on grass near homes and a crèche in west Belfast yesterday.

The device was found in the Colin Road area of Poleglass.

Police warned it could have been found by children.

Nolan was arrested by PSNI detectives in England on Sunday and flown to Northern Ireland for questioning.

He did not apply for bail yesterday and was remanded in custody to appear via video link on October 20.

The discovery of the Semtex prompted questions from unionists about its origin, with UUP MP Tom Elliot asking how explosives thought to have been decommissioned came to be in the possession of suspected dissident republicans.

The group calling itself 'the IRA' claimed 18 months ago that it had acquired Semtex and commercial detonators.

The west Belfast seizure is expected to be assessed by a three-person panel set up to assess the current structure and activity of paramilitary organisations.

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, Rosalie Flanagan and Stephen Shaw QC are to report their findings in mid-October, which will be used to inform political talks.

Between 1975 and the early 1980s Libya imported around 700 tons of Semtex before Colonel Gaddafi passed on large quantities to the Provisional IRA.

Since 2000 production of the Czechoslovakian-made explosive was greatly reduced and monitored because of its association with global terrorism.

Sources say the Semtex discovered in west Belfast was of an age that would make it likely it belonged to the Provisional IRA. The explosive was said to be corroded and in an 'unstable' condition.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old woman arrested in west Belfast on Sunday over the find has been released pending a report to the PPS, while a 29-year-old man was freed without charge.

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