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Police uncover ‘significant terrorist hide‘ in Carnfunnock Country Park near Larne

Army bomb experts at Carnfunnock Country Park, near Larne, where police uncovered a "significant terrorist hide" containing bomb making components and explosives. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
John Monaghan

POLICE have uncovered "a significant terrorist hide" in a country park during a weekend which saw several security alerts across Co Antrim.

The haul was found amidst searches at Carnfunnock Country Park on the Coast Road in Ballygally, on the outskirts of Larne.

A police spokeswoman said: "A number of small plastic barrels had been buried in a wooded area. Inside the barrels was a significant amount of bomb making components including partially constructed devices and a small quantity of explosives."

The park was closed for most of the weekend after police said they got a report from a member of the public on Saturday.

Suspicion for the find has fallen on dissidents, but it has been suggested that the area is so far from natural republican territory that the security services will also be considering the involvement of loyalists.

One local source told The Irish News: "I couldn't see how, given the location, dissident republicans would be involved. It would be a distance to travel for them.....as far as I understand it it is connected to loyalists."

However, police said it was too early to link the items to any particular group and declined to comment further when asked by The Irish News if the seizures involved old items or new devices.

Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney said: "All of these items will be subjected to a detailed forensic examination. Until this has been completed, it is too early to link these items to any particular grouping, but we are following a number of lines of enquiry."

"We apologise that the park will remain closed for some time while a full clearance operation is carried out, but I hope people will understand the need to put public safety first."

Sinn Féin East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan said that those responsible for the cache were "totally irresponsible" by placing it in a "park used by a lot of people."

Mr McMullan said: "I have to congratulate the person who brought this to the attention of the police and the police for taking it out of action. No matter who is responsible for this they showed scant regard for the public."

DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson tweeted: "Terrorism will never win. The community in Larne and across NI will be rightly appalled. Disgraceful."

Justice Minister David Ford MLA said a "potentially serious incident has been averted" due to the find.

He said: "Those responsible for leaving these munitions have no regard for human life and are motivated by a need to create fear and disruption in our community."

Meanwhile, there was disruption in west Belfast on Saturday after two separate security alerts.

Police said two viable explosive devices were found during the alerts, one in Ramoan Drive and the other in Glencolin Walk.

Residents were forced to leave their home and the Glen Road was closed for a time between at the Shaws Road and Suffolk Road junctions.

Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said: "I condemn unreservedly the people behind these attacks who have succeeded only in putting the lives of local people at risk and bringing disruption to the community.

He added: "It’s understood these attacks are linked to a despicable attempt at extortion by a criminal gang masquerading as republicans. These people should end their criminality now and get off the backs of the community."

The discovery of the devices in Larne and the security alerts come after the attempted murder of a prison officer in east Belfast on Friday.

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said that incidents of recent days "confirm the scale of terror threat."

He said: "There should be a unambiguous and comprehensive response - people must help the police. The incidents of the last few days were an assault on all our people and on Irish democracy."

The 52-year-old prison officer targeted in Friday's attack is in a stable condition after undergoing leg surgery suffered when a bomb exploded under his van in the Hillsborough Drive area, off the Woodstock Road, just after 7am.

The bomb, which has been claimed by the 'IRA', is thought to have fallen from the van as it went over a speed bump and exploded reducing the impact of the blast.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said he was "extremely concerned about an upsurge in dissident activity" ahead of the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

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