Northern Ireland news

Arrests linked to 'New IRA' arms find in west Belfast

Police searches linked to the discovery of weapons in west Belfast. Picture Matt Bohill.

Two people were arrested yesterday by detectives investigating a 'New IRA' arms dump, discovered following a fire in west Belfast earlier this month.

Detectives from PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit arrested a 31-year old man and a 33-year old woman on suspicion of dissident republican activity, in connection to the discovery of a significant amount of weapons and ammunition following a fire in Rodney Drive on November 14.

Two AK47 assault rifles, previously used in separate attacks on police, were among the cache found in the burning boiler house at the rear of a property in the St James' area of west Belfast.

Police said they believed the haul belonged to the dissident organisation known as the 'New IRA'.

The stash also included a high-powered rifle with a silencer, two sawn-off shotguns, three pipe bombs and 100 rounds of ammunition.

Tests carried out on the weapons revealed one was used to shoot at police at Rosnareen Avenue in west Belfast in November 2015, while the other was used on the Crumlin Road, in north Belfast, last January in an attack which resulted in a police officer being shot in the arm.

It is thought that the boiler house they were stored in caught fire after the heating was turned on, causing the high powered ammunition that had been left on top of the boiler to explode.

A 35-year-old man, who lives in the property was arrested, but subsequently released unconditionally with police satisfied he was unaware that the weapons had been stored in the boiler house.

A police spokesman said two properties were searched yesterday, one on Ballymurphy and the other on the Whiterock Road, a number of items were seized to be sent for forensic examination, including a small quantity of suspected Class B drugs.

Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Griffin said: "As part of our investigations into ongoing dissident republican activity we have arrested a man and a woman.

"This was in connection to the discovery of a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition which we strongly believe belongs to the New IRA."

Meanwhile, a 32-year old man was arrested by detectives from PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit in Strabane yesterday.

The man was arrested on suspicion of involvement in pipe bomb attacks in the Drumrallagh estate in Strabane in July 2017 and in Melmount Villas in August 2017.

He was also been arrested in connection to a hoax pipe bomb which was left at the Footbridge in the town in March this year.

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