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NI Royal Marine admits amassing haul of explosives for terrorist attack

By Emily Pennink

A Royal Marine has admitted hoarding explosives and making bombs for a Northern Ireland-related terror attack.

Ciaran Maxwell (31), of Exminster, Devon, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August 2016.

According to the charge details, he had a stash of explosives in purpose-built hides in England and Northern Ireland.

He compiled a library of terrorism documents, including instructions on how to make explosives and tactics used by terrorist organisations.

He also had maps, plans and lists of potential targets for a terrorist attack and images of an adapted PSNI pass card and a PSNI uniform.

He bought chemicals and components and went on to manufacture explosives and devices, the court heard.

Maxwell was also charged with possessing a quantity of cannabis with intent to supply it to another on August 24, 2016, and between November 1, 2015 and August 24, 2016, having in his possession bank cards and associated CVC numbers for use in fraud.

He appeared before Mr Justice Sweeney at the Old Bailey via video-link from Woodhill Prison and spoke only to confirm his name and enter guilty pleas to all the charges.

Maxwell was arrested on August 24 by officers from the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism command, supported by Avon and Somerset and Devon and Cornwall Police.

He was remanded in custody yesterday to be sentenced on a date to be fixed.

The court heard that Maxwell stashed in his hides a range of explosive substances, devices, and components as well as ammunition, weapons and tools for making bombs.

Maxwell, originally from Larne, Co Antrim, was arrested in a pre-planned operation believed to have been linked to the discovery of two dissident arsenals in woodland in Northern Ireland earlier in 2016.

Officers searched a house in Exminster in Devon and nearby Powderham New Plantation woods.

In Northern Ireland officers searched a number of properties in Larne, near the two forest parks where the weapons dumps were earlier unearthed.

It has since emerged that at the age of 16 Maxwell was the victim of a savage sectarian beating in his home town.

He suffered a fractured skull and multiple other injuries when a gang of loyalist thugs attacked him.

During his recovery he recounted the incident to republican newspaper An Phoblacht in an article that was accompanied by a picture showing the extent of his injuries.

In that article Maxwell described being struck by a bottle, and having fallen to the ground where he was set upon and beaten unconscious by the gang armed with golf clubs and iron bars. The incident was reported to have left him "angry and traumatised".

Commander Dean Haydon of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command acknowledged the "excellent" joint work between the Northern Ireland force and the UK national counter terrorism network. He said: "This investigation resulted in a significant disruption and protected public safety by removing a large quantity of dangerous material from circulation."

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said by working together they had removed a significant threat.

"The arrest and charge of Ciaran Maxwell highlights the benefits of excellent collaborative working between the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Metropolitan Police and other national partner agencies," he said.

"Working together, we have disrupted the activity of a dangerous individual and removed a very significant threat."

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