PSNI foils dissident republican terror attack with mortar launcher find
- Device thought to have been left out recently
- Item in good condition for forensic evidence recovery
Police believe that the discovery of a mortar tube and command wire prevented an attack by dissident republicans on security services.
The items were recovered during a security operation in Castlewellan after a discovery by a member of the public in the Drumnaquoile Road area before 3pm on Monday.
At a press conference, PSNI detective superintendent John McVea said it was likely the mortar tube was left by the road for collection by another dissident republican.
He said the tube did not contain a mortar device. It was left behind a wall outside a derelict house and in relatively good condition indicating it had been left in place recently.
"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," he said.
"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."
DUP Policing Board member and North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey welcomed the discovery.
He said: "This is a significant discovery which would appear to have foiled attempts by republican terrorists to bring violence onto our streets.
"It is vital that those responsible for such devices are brought to justice and everyone will hope that evidence can be gathered which will lead to that outcome.
"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. Information from the public about the activities of these groups is also vital to tackle the threat they pose."
MP Chris Hazzard added: "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.
“There is absolutely no place for this type of activity in our society. Anyone with any information should bring it forward to police.”
Police implemented an extensive clearance operation on Monday following the discovery which lasted into Tuesday afternoon.
Detective Inspector Orr added: "The mortar tube and command wire will now be subject to detailed forensic examination however our initial assessment is the items, which are in a fairly good condition relative to other similar devices we have uncovered, had not been at that location for very long and may even have been there for as little as one day.
"I am appealing for local people to help us identify those responsible for leaving this device so close to a public road and to come forward with any information they may have.
"Whilst at this stage, it is too early to attribute ownership to any particular grouping, it is my belief that dissident republican terrorists are responsible and that this find has undoubtedly prevented an attack on local police.
"We know that the vast majority of people support our police officers and simply want to live in a peaceful society. We will continue to work with communities to disrupt the activities of the small group of people who are intent on using violence. If you know anything that could help us, please call 101, quoting reference 721 08/04/19.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital