Strabane: PSNI find 'military-grade rifle' during dissident republican investigation

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Media captionA military-grade assault rifle found in Strabane, County Tyrone would have been used to kill police officers, the PSNI have said.

A military-grade assault rifle found in Strabane, County Tyrone would have been used to kill police officers, the PSNI have said.

The gun was found with ammunition during a security alert at Lismourne Place on Friday, 22 January.

Police said that the discovery was part of an operation investigating dissident republican activity by a group known as the New IRA.

Supt Mark McEwan said that the weapon could have had a "devastating impact".

'Disregard'

"We believe that this item was brought into the Strabane area in an attempt to carry out an attack on police," he said.

"This would have been an attempt to kill police officers.

Image caption Police said the items had been taken away for forensic examination

"The calibre of this weapon is such that the ammunition that was recovered along with it is capable of penetrating brick walls.

"So, any sort of attack that is carried out using a weapon of this style is in complete disregard for the safety of the community."

The new IRA is believed to have been formed in 2012 from an amalgamation of previously disparate dissident republican organisations.

They include the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) and a coalition of independent armed republican groups and individuals, some of whom are believed to have been involved in the murder of 25-year-old Catholic Constable Ronan Kerr in 2011.

'Risk'

Supt McEwan said that the weapon would be given a full forensic examination and has appealed to the public for information.

The Justice Minister David Ford said it was a worrying development.

"It is clear that there are a small number of people who are intent on dragging us back to the past.

"There is no doubt that it put at risk the lives of those in the vicinity had it been used."

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