A cache of weapons was discovered as a residential property in Belfast, Northern Ireland following a heating boiler fire. Two AK-pattern rifles and two sawn-off shotguns were found along with a supply of ammunition.
Police believe that the weapons belonged to the ‘New IRA’ also known as the Real IRA which formed in 1997 following a split in the Provisional IRA who rejected the ceasefire agreed as a preliminary to the Good Friday Agreement. Police Service of Northern Ireland’s terrorism investigation unit believes that the weapons had been stored in the boiler room without the homeowner’s knowledge. They were stored on top of the boiler out of sight.
Along with the AKs and shotguns, officers from Police Service Northern Ireland also found what they described as a “high powered rifle with a silencer fitted” as well as three assembled pipe bombs an around 100 rounds of ammunition in various calibres.
Detective Superintendent John McVea, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s terrorism investigation unit, said “it beggars belief that anyone would store items as volatile as bombs and bullets in a hot environment.” The cause of the fire is unconfirmed but police believe it may have been due to the ignition of some of the explosive or ammunition by heat from the boiler.
McVea continued saying: “this is simply reckless, it is stupid and it shows total disregard for the safety of local residents. Anyone with an ounce of sense would have known that live ammunition and pipe bombs mixed with heat is a recipe for carnage.”
PSNI suspect that the AK may have been used in two recent dissident attacks in 2015 and 2017. Forensic examination suggests that the weapons had only recently been moved to the hiding place, just days before the fire. Police said, “It’s a significant haul of weapons in today’s terms within terrorism and it is with pleasure that these weapons are no longer in the hands of these terrorists.”