LONDON – A “significant” amount of bomb-making components and explosives has been found at a country park around 25 miles north of Belfast in Northern Ireland, police said on Sunday.
On Friday a prison officer was injured by a bomb that exploded under his van in Belfast, prompting police to warn of a “severe” threat to security forces as the centenary approaches of the 1916 anti-British Easter Rising.
A 1998 peace deal largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland between Protestants who want to remain under British rule and Catholics favoring a united Ireland, but violence sporadically erupts.
“Police have uncovered a significant terrorist hide containing bomb-making components and explosives at Carnfunnock Country Park,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland said in a statement.
“A number of small plastic barrels had been buried in a wooded area. Inside the barrels was a significant amount of bomb-making components including partially constructed devices and a small quantity of explosives.”
Police said the haul was discovered after a member of the public reported a suspicious object on Saturday.
Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney said it was too early to link the items to any particular group, but they were undergoing detailed examination.
The bomb-making materials, explosives and partially-constructed devices were found buried in plastic barrels in a forest park in a predominantly unionist area near Larne, 50 km north of Belfast.
“It is too early to link these items to any particular grouping, but we are following a number of lines of inquiry,” said Kearney.
“I would ask the public to remain vigilant, wherever they are and whatever they are doing. If people report suspicious activity to police, we will act on it to keep people safe.”
It comes 24 hours after two explosive devices were found and defused in west Belfast.
Separately on Friday, a prison guard was injured by an explosive device placed under his van in an attack attributed to dissident republicans.
A senior police officer expressed concerns following the bomb that some “people within dissident republican groupings” wanted to mark the centenary of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising with violence.
The anniversary of the rebellion, which led to Irish independence, is to be commemorated with high profile events both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
About 500 people were killed in the revolt in April 1916, in which rebels seized prominent buildings in Dublin and declared an Irish republic, an event that paved the way for independence in 1922.
Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom — something opposed by republicans, who continue to campaign for the whole island to be a unified Irish state.