'These are all designed to do one thing – to murder'
A significant amount of weapons linked to dissident republicans in the Lurgan and Benburb areas have been recovered during a major police search operation.
The items seized by the PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit include two shotguns, four handguns, explosives, fertiliser, ammunition, an improvised detonator, a suspected mortar tube, bomb making components, mobiles phones and other terrorist paraphernalia.
Police conducted 13 searches during a 12 day operation, including at the derelict site of St Michael’s High School in Lurgan, the Kilwilkie estate and fields and hedgerows near St Coleman's Cemetary in Lurgan.
Detective Superintendent John McVea said: "These [weapons] are all designed to do one thing – to murder.
"Many of these highly dangerous items were found in locations where members of the public could easily have come across them. This demonstrates the sheer recklessness and absolute lack of concern these terrorists have about harming people living in these communities.
"I believe Arm na Poblachta are responsible for the items discovered during a search of a property in the Carrickaness Road in Benburb on Thursday 3 May, including a quantity of explosives, and items suspected of being used to make bombs.
"And I believe the items recovered during the remainder of the searches belong to the Continuity IRA.”
Mr McVea said he was “sickened” that a search carried out on Tuesday May 8 uncovered a pipe bomb left right beside a nursery school and a community centre in the Tarry Drive area in Craigavon.
He said: “Who in their right mind would put the lives of young children at risk? I do not know how long it has been lying there so the reality is that parents have been walking past this twice a day while taking their children to and from nursery.
"And members of the public attending various activities at the community centre have all been placed at huge risk also. If it had detonated, it would almost certainly have killed or at the very least caused serious injury.”
The officer said the pipe bomb was “old and rusty” but was still viable and could have exploded at anytime.
“This clearly shows how reckless these terrorists are – they do not care if they harm people living in their own communities,” Mr McVea said.
“In their pursuit to store weapons and devices to kill police officers and those working in the security sectors, they have no concern who or what they damage along the way.”
He thanked the communities in Lurgan and Benburb for their patience during the search operations.
He added: “They definitely deserve an apology and explanation from those who recklessly left this device in the heart of this community.”
Police say they will continue to work with the local community to take those responsible off the streets and keep people safe.