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Semtex, guns and detonators found as police target 'dissident terrorists' in west Belfast

Two arrests come as the British government announced an assessment of paramilitary activity.

The heavily fortified Antrim Police station.
The heavily fortified Antrim Police station.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated 2.45 pm

BOMB-MAKING EQUIPMENT including more than half a kilo of semtex and detonators have been found by police investigating dissidents in west Belfast.

The seizure was made following a security alert in Ballymurphy Road last night that caused roads to be blocked off into the early hours of this morning.

PSNI officers say detectives were investigating “violent dissident terrorist activity” and they arrested a 38-year-old woman and a 67-year-old man at the scene.

As well as the bomb-making equipment, two handguns and a more than 200 rounds of ammunition were seized.

The two people arrested are currently being questioned at the PSNI’s high-security Serious Crime Suite at Antrim Police station.

Detective chief inspector Gillian Kearney said the force “are delighted to have removed these potentially lethal items from the streets of west Belfast”.

The arrests came as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers confirmed that British security agencies have been tasked with carrying out an assessment of the “role and purpose of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland”.

British security forces will carry out the review along with the PSNI.

Villiers says that the assessment is needed to ensure that the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland can function:

Recent events have also highlighted the continuing impact and legacy of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. This too needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency. The fallout has damaged political relationships making it more difficult for meaningful talks to begin.

As well as looking at the nature of paramilitary activity, the assessment will also examine the links between paramilitary organisations and organised crime. Cross-border crime will be also be an aspect of the investigation.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams says that his party has reservations about the assessment being carried out by the British security forces but added that their concerns are secondary to the current impasse in power-sharing.

NI Executive crisis Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“There should be no more delays,” he said in a statement this afternoon.

“Whatever reservations Sinn Féin may have about the role and involvement of the British security agencies these are secondary to the resolution of the crisis.”

“Sinn Féin supports any strategies that can enhance the capacity of An Garda Siochána and the PSNI to deal with paramilitary groups and organised criminal gangs.”

The intelligence will be pored over by three separate appointed individuals before it is published in mid-October and provided to the cross-party talks.

Discussions on the faltering Northern Ireland institutions are set to resume on Monday.

Read: Peter Robinson has resigned as First Minister of Northern Ireland >

Read: Bobby Storey insists the IRA is not coming back >

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Rónán Duffy

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