Northern Ireland news

Police believe guns to be used by dissident republicans

Graves in Derry city cemetery. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

Police believe three weapons found in Derry and Strabane were to be used by dissident republican paramilitaries.

A major security operation at Derry city cemetery ended yesterday morning after officers discovered two semi-automatic handguns.

A controlled explosion was also carried out on a car parked in the graveyard.

The Derry find followed the discovery of a military-grade Armalite-style gun in Strabane at the weekend.

Superintendent Mark McEwan said the Derry weapons were found during an investigation into violent dissident republican activity.

Police sealed off the Lone Moor Road entrance to the cemetery on Wednesday afternoon.

While people visiting relatives' graves were asked to leave, no funerals were scheduled for yesterday.

In the initial search, two semi-automatic guns were found.

Army technical officers were later called in to examine a car and a controlled explosion was carried out shortly before midnight on Wednesday. The security alert ended around 11.30am yesterday.

Supt McEwan said the guns were to be used to kill or injure.

He said: “Those involved are intent on carrying out attacks on police officers and the local community.”

The Derry police chief said the discovery of the guns – along with the Strabane find – was a success but he expressed concern that they had to remove three such weapons from circulation within a week.

“I cannot say if these are linked but violent dissident republican activity is the main focus of our investigations into both seizures."

Sinn Féin assembly member Raymond McCartney and SDLP councillor John Boyle condemned those who left the weapons at the cemetery.

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