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Residents evacuated as police arrest four dissident suspects

By Luke Barnes

Published 22/09/2016

Forensic teams and a police dog carried out searches at properties in the Lurgan area on Wednesday.
Forensic teams and a police dog carried out searches at properties in the Lurgan area on Wednesday.

Residents had to be evacuated from 15 homes as police launched a major anti-terror operation in Co Armagh yesterday.

Officers swooped on Woodville Avenue in Lurgan, arresting two 22-year-olds and a 24-year-old suspected of dissident republican activity.

A 46-year-old was also arrested in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, and the four were questioned at a Belfast police station.

Forensic officers, as well as Army explosives experts and sniffer dogs, combed through a number of properties.

Community leaders praised the PSNI for their efforts during the operation.

Upper Bann MP David Simpson said: "News that dissident activity is continuing to happen in the area is worrying.

"These individuals have no regard for life and intend to disrupt normal life here.

"The security forces are to be congratulated in their work for uncovering this, and I hope that they will continue to make significant strides against terrorism here."

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie MC also commended police efforts and said the raid highlighted the effectiveness of the PSNI's proactive and intelligence-led tactics.

"I think the people of Lurgan, from all communities, have suffered enough with security alerts, terrorist parades and disruption to their everyday lives which is becoming increasingly all too common," he explained.

"It is absolutely clear that those who see themselves as career terrorists, but who are in fact nothing more than career criminals, care not a jot for the people of Lurgan or wider Northern Ireland society.

"If they did, they would cease their activities and let people live their lives and focus on things that matter - healthcare, employment and education."

Mr Beattie added that he hoped the judiciary could back up the police's "no nonsense" approach by delivering sentences and convictions that were "fit for purpose".

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart said that dissident republicans were trying to return Northern Ireland to the past.

"I congratulate the police for their action on this," she added. "The PSNI are sending out a very clear message - terrorist activity, no matter what level, will simply not be tolerated.

"Nobody wants to see terrorist activity here, and this operation in north Lurgan has once again thwarted the aims of those groups who want to drag Northern Ireland back into the past. Dissident activity has no place in the community."

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