Northern Ireland news

Gun found in dissident operation 'same type and calibre' as Lyra McKee murder weapon

Lyra McKee was shot dead by dissident republicans during rioting in Derry on April 18, 2019

A GUN seized by police during a dissident republican operation in Derry is the "same type and calibre" as the weapon used to murder journalist Lyra McKee last year.

The gun was discovered along with ammunition and a primed bomb during a major two-day PSNI search in Ballymagroarty, close to land where children play.

Police said yesterday they cannot yet confirm if the gun was the murder weapon. Forensic tests are being carried out.

The find has been linked to dissident group the New IRA and followed a search of 38 acres of land over Friday and Saturday.

Both police and British soldiers were involved.

Ms McKee (29) was shot dead while observing rioting in Derry in April last year. The New IRA later admitted it had killed the journalist.

Derry City and Strabane District Commander Chief Superintendent Emma Bond said: "This operation was designed specifically to find items we believed were being stored by violent dissident republicans in the Ballymagroarty area and which posed a serious and imminent risk to the community.

"We were able to locate and safely remove a command-wire initiated bomb, a handgun and a quantity of ammunition. A strong line of enquiry is that these munitions belong to the New IRA. They have now been seized and will be subject to rigorous forensic examination in the coming days and weeks.

"The weapon found appears to be of the same type and calibre as the gun we believe was used to murder Lyra McKee, however at this time we are not in a position to say whether this is the murder weapon. The gun will be subject to extensive forensic testing in the coming days and weeks to determine if there is a link between this firearm and Lyra's murder.

"Whilst we regard this as an encouraging line of enquiry, I will repeat that we cannot definitively say at this time whether or not this is the murder weapon. That determination will be guided by the forensics."

The senior PSNI officer said the fact the weapon and explosives were left near a busy area and on land where "children are known to play" highlights the "total lack of regard" of those responsible for their neighbours.

"These people are so singularly focused on murdering police officers that they do not care if others - men, women, children, families - are caught up in their evil plots. The community is simply collateral damage," she said.

Policing Board chairman Doug Garrett said: “I welcome that these deadly items have been safely recovered, but share the concern voiced by others at the reckless disregard of the dissidents in leaving weapons of harm in a community area.

"Those who primed this bomb had the likely intent of killing our police officers, but they really have no care about anyone else who may be harmed in the process.

"Despite the clear threat faced, we thank our officers for their continued work in the community to tackle and respond to issues of public concern."

Justice Minister Naomi Long also commended officers involved and said their work had "undoubtedly saved lives".

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood described the discovery of the bomb and weapons as "deeply disturbing" while Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said armed gangs needed to end their "futile actions" against the community.

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