British soldier arrest linked to republican arms find
THE arrest of a British soldier in England is being linked to the discovery of two republican arms dumps in Co Antrim earlier this year.
The 30-year-old Royal Marine, father-of-one Ciarán Maxwell from Larne, Co Antrim, was held in Somerset at around 12.20pm.
Mr Maxwell's partner is from London and the pair have a young son.
Scotland Yard later said a house in South Devon and a wooded area were being searched.
English police said the British soldier had been detained “on suspicion of preparation for acts of terrorism” and that the operation was “intelligence led”.
While it is not unheard of, it is unusual for British soldiers to be linked to Irish republican paramilitary activity.
The PSNI and the British army also carried out a search operation at several properties on the Old Glenarm Road area of Larne, a majority unionist town.
The British army bomb squad attended the scene and items were later removed from several properties.
The searches are linked to the discovery of two arms dumps in the area earlier this year.
A potentially deadly Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) mortar was among the haul found at Capanagh Forest in May.
The armour piercing mortar has been fired by the ‘IRA’ at the security forces in the past.
The discovery of explosives and ammunition was described by police as one of the most “significant seizures” in years.
Other items included two Claymore anti-personnel mines, several pipe bombs, quantities of explosives, ammunition and command wire.
Component parts used in the construction of explosive devices as well as magazines and ammunition for an assault riffle were also discovered in the remote forest location.
The equipment was found in three large blue barrels which had been dug into the ground.
A day after the find a device was discovered a short distance away outside the village of Cushendun.
A police a spokesman later confirmed that they had not ruled out a link with the Capanagh discovery.
In March bomb-making equipment and explosives were discovered at nearby Carnfunnock Country Park.
Police said both dumps were found by walkers while the Cushendun device was discovered by birdwatchers.
DUP councillor Paul Reid said the operation in Larne was linked to republican activity.
“My information is this is dissident republicans,” he said.
“And this is sad for the people of Larne because this is the third time in the last six months we have had to endure this.
“We would totally condemn this.”
Scotland Yard said the arrest in Somerset was carried out by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's Counter Terrorism Command, supported by Avon and Somerset and Devon and Cornwall Police.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We are aware of a police investigation involving the arrest of a member of the Armed Forces under the 2000 Terrorism Act and will assist this investigation fully.
"It would be inappropriate to comment further on an ongoing investigation."