Northern Ireland

Lurgan arms haul: Two further bombs found in major search operation

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDet Supt Karen Baxter said police believe one of the items is a "fully constructed explosive device"

Two further bombs have been discovered in an extensive PSNI search operation in Lurgan, County Armagh.

A major arms haul, believed to be connected to dissident republicans, was uncovered on Friday in the town.

Firearms and munitions were found by police during the three-day operation in the grounds of a former convent on the outskirts of Lurgan.

The weapons that were discovered are believed to belong to the group known to as the New IRA.

A security alert on the Cornakinnegar Road in the town, which was ongoing since Thursday, has now ended.

Det Supt Karen Baxter said: "A number of other items have been recovered, including two viable explosive devices which were made safe by ATO.

"All of the recovered items have now been seized and removed for forensic examination."

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption A pipe-bomb with timer units was one of the items uncovered in the hide

It has been described as a "significant and key" find that saved lives.

Specialist search teams scoured a wooded area close to a railway line and discovered the weapons hide.

Among the items found were homemade explosives, improvised mortars and launchers, a number of pipe bombs and three firearms.

Det Supt Baxter said it was difficult to say how long the hide had been in place.

She added that other hides in the area had been uncovered during the search and more items were found.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Firearms, including a semi-automatic shotgun, were found in the two-day search

Analysis: Vincent Kearney, BBC News NI's home affairs correspondent

This is significant in two ways, firstly because of the quantity and variety of what was discovered.

But also because of where the items were found.

The dissident republican group referred to as the New IRA is known to be active in north County Armagh, and particularly in the Lurgan area.

Police believe this find has dealt a serious blow to that organisation's ability to carry out its activities.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Parts for a homemade mortar were among the items recovered by police

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said those who had hidden the weapons "want to drag Northern Ireland backwards" but added that they would "not succeed".

"This is a reminder of the continuing need for vigilance and to report any information, no matter how small, to the Police Service of Northern Ireland," he said.

Anne Connolly, the chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, thanked the police and army bomb experts who were involved in the searches.

"It's a great result for the PSNI to find these firearms and munitions and take them away from those who would have used them to cause harm in our community," she said.

Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Seeley said: "The fact that those who would try to roll back the progress we have made as a society will not be able to use these weapons is to be welcomed.

"I'm glad these materials have been taken out of circulation and cannot be used to endanger life."

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The railway line between Lisburn and Portadown was closed while searches were carried out

Carla Lockhart, a Democratic Unionist Party MLA, praised the police for their work.

"It should be a wake-up call to those in our community who want to return to the past, that the PSNI will continue to work to defeat the threat of dissident activity," she said.

It is the third significant discovery of arms to be made this year.

In May, components for making bombs were found at Capanagh Forest near Larne in County Antrim.

Police said that was one of the most significant arms discoveries in years.

Arms, including parts that could be used to make under-car booby-trap bombs, were also found at Carnfunnock Country Park near Larne in March.

More on this story