Derry man caught with four mortar bombs for use in terror attack jailed for 12 years
A man caught driving a van loaded with four primed mortar bombs for use in a terrorist attack on the police has been jailed for 12 years.
Londonderry man Seamus McLaughlin (37) admitted possession of explosives with intent to endanger life and having articles for use in terrorism.
Sentencing McLaughlin, from Eastway Gardens in Creggan, Judge David McFarland spoke of "high potential for injuries or death" had the mortar bombs actually been fired at their intended target.
McLaughlin was in a van stopped by police on the Letterkenny Road on March 3 last year.
He got out of the white Citroen Berlingo with his hands raised.
Belfast Crown Court heard he was wearing a jacket zipped up to his face with the hood up, a baseball cap, gloves and plastic 'overshoes'.
When he was asked by officers at the scene whether anything was going to explode in the vehicle, he didn't respond.
Police found an improvised mortar system in the back of the van. It included four launch tubes, four propelling units and four mortar bombs.
These contained explosives, were secured in a frame and were ready for deployment.
A timing device was also found in the vehicle, as well as a device designed to destroy the van.
In addition, a hole had been cut in the roof of the van to enable the mortars to be fired.
Prosecuting counsel Ciaran Murphy QC also said that while the mortar device may have been crude, it was functional and ready to be deployed.
He said it was the Crown's view that the mortar bombs would be detonated "somewhere in the city of Derry" with the intended target likely to be a police station.
McLaughlin was handed a custodial sentence of 12 years in custody, followed by an extended period of five years on licence.