Detectives from PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit (TIU) have launched an investigation after a significant munitions find in Belfast’s River Lagan yesterday (Thursday, 30th January), which sparked a security alert.
Shortly before 4:10pm, police received a report that, during dredging work in the river, a sports holdall-type bag had been found in the water, which contained a number of suspicious items.
Police attended the scene, and the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and a nearby footbridge were closed to allow ATO to attend and examine the items.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “While the objects are undergoing further examination, what I can say today is we believe a significant munitions find has been uncovered.
“This includes what is believed to be 28 pipe bombs, one Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device, component parts for use in coffee-jar bombs, two improvised grenades, component parts for an improvised grenade launcher and an improvised smoke grenade.
“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 that they would be used recklessly and indiscriminately, with little regard as to who would be the final victim.
“Thankfully, they did not reach their destinations or targets, and have been taken out of circulation.
“Our investigation is at an early stage, and we are working to establish how and when these munitions were dumped in the river, and by whom.
“It is unclear at this time how old these munitions are, and how they came to be in the water. They do have the appearance of having been dumped by someone who panicked, perhaps as a result of police activity, but when that may have happened is not yet clear. The devices will now be subject to extensive forensic examination.
“Clearly, those responsible for dumping these extremely dangerous munitions, and in the manner in which they did, demonstrated a blatant disregard for the safety of the community.
“I want to thank those who made the discovery yesterday, and for reporting it to us.
“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who has information which could help our investigation to pick up the phone and tell us.
“Please take a moment to think that the intended targets and destinations for these munitions could be someone you know, or where you live.
“I believe there are people in the community who will hold vital pieces of information that could assist us, and I would urge them or anyone with information to call us on 101, or call Crimestoppers, which is anonymous, on 0800 555 111.”