Police investigating violent dissident republicanism have uncovered more than half a kilo of Semtex explosives, firearms and ammunition in west Belfast.
Two handguns, more than 200 rounds of ammunition and two bomb detonators were also recovered, the PSNI said.
Detective chief inspector Gillian Kearney, said: “We are delighted to have removed these potentially lethal items from the streets of west Belfast. We appreciate the clearance operation which was needed to ensure everyone’s safety through the night disrupted many people’s lives, requiring people to leave their homes and inconveniencing road users. We would like to thank them for their patience and understanding during the operation”.
The seizure follows a security alert in Ballymurphy Road which began late on Thursday night and continued into the early hours of Friday morning.
A 38-year-old woman and a 67-year-old man arrested at the scene continue to be questioned at Antrim police station.
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the PSNI should be praised for discovering the weapons stash.
He said: “Of course we challenge police services when they get things wrong but, when they get things right, they need to be applauded. I think in this instance where attempts to kill people; attempts to plunge us back to the past are being thwarted, the police should be applauded.”
Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott also congratulated the police but said the discovery, including the explosive Semtex, raises many questions.
“This has been described as part of an investigation into ‘violent dissident terrorist activity,’ but I note that the haul included more than half a kilogram of Semtex. The recovery of Semtex is particularly interesting, given that that particular explosive was brought into this country by the Provisional IRA from Libya several decades ago and was of course supposed to have been entirely decommissioned in 2005.
“We need to know how old the material was and if it is proven to have come from an old PIRA arms stockpile, we need to know just how it came into the possession of dissidents,” he added.