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Suspected Brexit day plot: Dissident republican bomb found on lorry bound for ferry to Scotland

Police searched 400 vehicles in bid to find deadly device

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Belfast Ports (Darren Kidd/Presseye.com)

Belfast Ports (Darren Kidd/Presseye.com)

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Pre

Belfast Ports (Darren Kidd/Presseye.com)

A dissident republican explosive device discovered in Co Armagh on Tuesday night was found attached to a lorry and bound for a ferry to Scotland, police said.

Police said anyone could have been killed or injured if the device exploded as it made its way from Armagh to Belfast docks.

After receiving information of a possible device police searched some 400 vehicles in a wide-ranging search operation before making the discovery.

The report of the potential device was first made on Friday, January 31 - the day the UK left the EU.

On Wednesday, police were criticised by Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie for not releasing more information about the bomb after businesses within Silverwood Industrial Estate in Lurgan were evacuated after the discovery and while the device was made safe.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the device could have caused a "catastrophic loss of life" after attending a policing board meeting in Belfast on Thursday.

Details of the find were not released until Wednesday afternoon but Detective Superintendent Sean Wright, from the PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit, explained on Thursday that a search in Belfast docks on Friday occurred after police were told that an explosive device loaded on a lorry, was bound for Scotland.

However, after searching the docks area and working with a ferry company, Belfast harbour authorities and Police Scotland, they found nothing as the ferry sailed and arrived safely in Scotland.

On Monday police received a further report that the explosive device was attached to a lorry belonging to a “named haulage company”.

“This more detailed information enabled police to conduct focused investigations with the haulage company,” continued Detective Superintendent Wright.

“Working throughout the evening of Monday, February 3, and Tuesday, February 4, police and the haulage company eliminated in the region of 400 vehicles in order to locate the explosive device.

“The device was subsequently found attached to a heavy goods vehicle in the Silverwood Industrial Estate. That explosive device was made safe by ATO colleagues.”

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Silverwood Business Park, where an explosive device was made safe.  Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Silverwood Business Park, where an explosive device was made safe. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

©Philip Magowan / PressEye

Silverwood Business Park, where an explosive device was made safe. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Detective Superintendent Wright added that it was clear from the information available that dissident republicans “deliberately and recklessly” attached an explosive device to a heavy goods vehicle knowing that it put those in range of the blast at “serious risk of injury and possible death”.

He also appealed for anyone who was in Silverwood Industrial Estate between 4pm and 10pm on Friday who may have noticed any unusual activity in the area to contact police.

“Had this vehicle travelled and the device had exploded at any point along the M1, across the Westlink or into the harbour estate the risks posed do not bear thinking about,” he stated.

“The only conclusion that we can draw is that once again dissident republicans have shown a total disregard for the community, for businesses and for wider society.

“In addition I ask that anyone who was driving in the area and who would have dash-cam footage around these same times that they contact police, as a matter of urgency.”

If you have any information, police can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101 or information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Belfast Telegraph