Belfast Telegraph

Carnfunnock Country Park 'terrorist hide': Police release photos of bomb parts and explosives

By Nevin Farrell

A child could have been killed had they stumbled across a bomb cache left by terrorists who used the cover of a family-friendly park to try and outwit security forces, it has been claimed.

Police said a "significant terrorist hide" was unearthed in Carnfunnock Country Park on the Antrim Coast Road on Saturday.

Four plastic barrels were found after being spotted by a member of the public. Two barrels were empty but two contained a variety of bomb-making components including wiring, toggle switches, circuit boards, partially constructed timer power units, ball bearings and a small quantity of explosives.

Usually on Mother's Day the park would be filled by the sound of children playing, yesterday it was silent as police sealed off the entrance to make safe a potentially deadly weapons haul.

East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: "It is a place of fun and entertainment and this bunch want to make it a place of death."

He said it didn't surprise him that the bombers used the park, thinking it may have fallen under the radar of the security forces.

He said devices were found among trees near the main road entrance and added: "Don't forget these terrorists are people who, without any thought at all, would blow children and families up - and they have done.

"They have no compunction about burying semi-prepared bombs in such a place and if somebody had been unfortunate enough to come across them and get killed they would probably have just called it 'collateral damage'."

Jonathan Craig, a DUP Policing Board member, said: "It doesn't bear thinking about the consequences of an inquisitive child who is most likely to have discovered something like this. It had the potential to kill and maim people, especially children."

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "Police have uncovered a significant terrorist hide containing bomb-making components and explosives at Carnfunnock Country Park, near Larne.

"The haul was discovered after a member of the public reported a suspicious object to police on Saturday afternoon.

"A number of small plastic barrels had been buried in a wooded area. Inside the barrels were a significant amount of bomb-making components, including partially constructed devices and a small quantity of explosives."

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney of Serious Crime Branch said: "The seizure of these items has potentially saved lives. Our enquiries are progressing and a detailed forensic examination of all these items will take some time.

"At this stage, it is too early to attribute ownership of these materials to any particular grouping or individual. It is vital that people remain vigilant, wherever they are and whatever they are doing.

"We will continue to work to keep people safe and would ask anyone with information about suspicious, criminal or terrorist activity to contact police. As has been shown by the events of last weekend, if people provide us with information, we will act on it to ensure everyone is kept safe."

The park reopened late on Sunday afternoon.

Justice Minister David Ford yesterday congratulated the police on finding the bombs.

The find was the latest in a surge of weekend security alerts across Northern Ireland following a booby-trap bomb attack on a prison officer in east Belfast. Police said last week they feared dissident republicans would step up activity before the 1916 Easter Rising centenary.

Yesterday, the chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, warned of a serious and sustained escalation in dissident activity.

Mr Lindsay said: "There are murderous republican gangs who think the best way to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising is to visit misery on the family of a police officer and society.

"They are aggressively targeting officers, prison officers and soldiers in a worrying escalation.

"The threat level is at its highest for quite some time and, for that reason, I am today issuing an urgent appeal to all police officers to heighten alert levels and double-check their personal security arrangements."

Last night, residents were evacuated from the Gelvin Gardens area of Londonderry after a suspicious object was found.

And on Saturday, devices were made safe by security forces during two alerts in west Belfast.

A security alert in Glencolin Walk off the Glen Road ended just before 10pm. The PSNI said a suspicious object was declared a "viable device".

Earlier on Saturday, homeowners were evacuated as specialist officers removed another bomb from Ramoan Drive in Andersonstown.

On Friday, the Belsize Road in Lisburn was closed while bomb disposal officers examined a suspicious item at Thiepval Barracks army base.

Nothing untoward was found.

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