Belfast Telegraph

Dissident attack on police foiled by mortar tube find

Police at the scene of the alert in Castlewellan yesterday
Police at the scene of the alert in Castlewellan yesterday
The mortar tube that was found
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Police believe the discovery of a mortar tube and command wire in Co Down prevented a potential attack by dissident republicans on the security forces.

The items were recovered in Castlewellan after being found by a member of the public in the Drumnaquoile Road area on Monday afternoon.

The PSNI then implemented an extensive clearance operation, which lasted into yesterday afternoon.

Detective superintendent John McVea said it was likely the mortar tube was left by the road for collection by another dissident.

He said the tube did not contain a mortar device.

It was left behind a wall outside a derelict house and was in relatively good condition, indicating it had been left there recently.

Detective McVea added: "We are very pleased to have this item recovered - undoubtedly it was in the future intended to be used in an attack against the security forces.

"There is a derelict farm building in the immediate vicinity.

"The device, the mortar tube, was left just by the wall. It was not covered in any way.

"It was in very good condition and there were no signs it had been left to the elements for any length of time and certainly we are working on the theory that it was left there in very recent times."

The PSNI said the mortar tube and command wire will now be subject to detailed forensic examination.

The chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland Mark Lindsay condemned those who had left the items where they could also have endangered the lives of passers-by.

He added: "What this shows is the need for constant vigilance.

"We cannot relax our guard in the face of a determined dissident republican threat to officers and, indeed, the wider community.

"I have no doubt that this was intended for officers out doing their best for the entire community.

"This is yet another demonstration of the bankrupt nature of those who seek to inflict pain and suffering on the community.

"The terrorists don't care who they hurt. And I would appeal to anyone with information about those who were planning to carry out an attack to contact the PSNI."

Mr Lindsay added: "We have to put these mindless individuals behind bars. Only through the all-out support of the community will we be able to rid Northern Ireland of these murderous gangs."

DUP Policing Board member and North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said it is vital that those responsible for such devices are brought to justice.

"This is a significant discovery which would appear to have foiled attempts by republican terrorists to bring violence onto our streets," he said. "Everyone will hope that evidence can be gathered which will lead to that outcome," he added.

"The items appear to have been recently prepared and it demonstrates the need for ongoing vigilance against such terrorists. Those who are attempting to copy the failed tactics pursued by others in the past must face a united stance by the community in opposition," he said.

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said there was "absolutely no place for this type of activity in our society".

"I welcome that these materials have been taken out of circulation and out of the hands of those who cause death and destruction in the community," he said.

Alan Lewis, a UUP representative in the area, described those who discarded the components and device as "reckless mindless idiots with no regard for public safety".

He added: "In 2019 we should be far beyond such activity where people expect to live in peace without fear of harm.

"This discovery is a clear and stark reminder that there are very dangerous individuals still intent on causing destruction, death and mayhem."

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference 721 08/04/19.

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