Huge haul of weapons dumped in Lagan by nervous dissidents
AN arsenal of weapons found at the bottom of Belfast's River Lagan may have been dumped by someone who panicked while transporting them to a nearby destination.
An under-car Improvised Explosive Device (IED) indicates that dissident republicans were responsible for the haul, discovered during dredging of the river.
Almost 30 pipe bombs, parts used to make coffee car bombs, grenades and parts for a grenade launcher were also recovered.
The Queen Elizabeth Bridge and nearby Lagan Weir footbridge were closed overnight following the discovery.
Dredgers are currently removing thousands of tonnes of silt from the River Lagan.
Detectives from PSNI's Terrorism Investigation Unit said police received a report that a sports holdall-type bag had been found in the water, which contained a number of suspicious items.
Having attended the scene, the two busy bridges were closed to allow army technical officers to examine the items.
The haul included 28 pipe bombs, one under-vehicle Improvised Explosive Device, component parts for use in coffee-jar bombs, two improvised grenades, component parts for an improvised grenade launcher and an improvised smoke grenade.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: "These potentially lethal weapons were designed to kill or seriously injure their targets, which include police officers and members of the public.
"History tells us that they would be used recklessly and indiscriminately, with little regard as to who would be the final victim.
"Thankfully, they did not reach their destinations or targets, and have been taken out of circulation.
"Our investigation is at an early stage, and we are working to establish how and when these munitions were dumped in the river, and by whom."
While police say it is unclear how old the munitions are, the condition of the weapons would indicate they had been there a matter of months.
Given such a large haul of explosives would be unlikely to be transported any significant distance, it is believed the suspects may have had a base nearby.
The area is saturated with a large number of security cameras and frequently patrolled by the Harbour Police, which may have panicked the courier of the weapons.
Mr Murray said the items have the appearance of "having been dumped by someone who panicked".
The devices will now be subject to extensive forensic examination, although the time they spent in the water may make testing for DNA evidence difficult.
“Clearly, those responsible for dumping these extremely dangerous munitions, and in the manner in which they did, demonstrated a blatant disregard for the safety of the community," he said.
“I want to thank those who made the discovery yesterday, and for reporting it to us.
"I want to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who has information which could help our investigation to pick up the phone and tell us."