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Bombs hauled from Lagan linked to renegade ex-marine Maxwell

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Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell (Met Police/PA)

Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell (Met Police/PA)

Press Association Images

Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell (Met Police/PA)

A haul of bombs dredged by cops from the bottom of the River Lagan in Belfast has been linked to rogue Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell.

The 33-year-old from Larne is serving an 18-year prison sentence for the theft of weapons and ammunition from his former Army base in England.

Some of the munitions which were taken by Maxwell were used by dissident republicans in pipe-bomb attacks in Armagh, Belfast, Carnlough and Larne.

Dozens of similar weapons he manufactured were found by police hidden in two barrels buried at Carnfunnock Country Park and Cappanagh Forest in Co Antrim. Maxwell is known to have supplied dissidents with dozens of pipe-bombs prior to his arrest in 2013.

A main line of inquiry for detectives is the devices dredged from the River Lagan are linked to the ex-soldier turned violent dissident republican paramilitary.

The haul included 30 pipebombs, parts used to make coffee jar bombs, grenades, parts of a grenade launcher and an under-car improvised explosive device.

A security source told Sunday Life: "Early indications are that this find is linked to Ciaran Maxwell. It's possible that whoever was in possession of his pipebombs were spooked by his arrest and his decision to turn supergrass."

Larne dissident Niall Lehd - who served a three-year jail sentence for possessing some of Maxwell's pipebombs - is facing a raft of new terror charges based on the word of his former pal.

At a court hearing last year it was revealed that the ex-Royal Marine had turned "assisting offender" and had made statements implicating the 30-year-old. Detectives are examining the possibility that this revelation spooked dissident republicans, who panicked and dumped Maxwell's pipe-bomb haul in the River Lagan.

Officers from the PSNI's Terrorism Investigation Unit said police received a report that a sports holdall, which contained suspicious items, had been found in the water.

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The munitions discovered in the River Lagan.

The munitions discovered in the River Lagan.

The Queen Elizabeth Bridge and Lagan Weir were closed following the discovery.

Superintendent Raymond Murray said: "These potentially lethal weapons were designed to kill or seriously injure their targets, which include police officers and members of the public.

"History tells us they would have been used recklessly and indiscriminately, with little regard as to who would be the final victim."

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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