Police in Northern Ireland have seized weapons from New IRA terrorists that reportedly came to the country from the frontlines of the war in Ukraine.
The New Irish Republican Army (NIRA) is believed to have acquired Russian military grenades that “may have been stolen from Ukraine front line,” police sources told the Belfast Telegraph.
The Terrorism Investigation Unit of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on Thursday conducted raids against suspected terrorist cells in the city of Derry and the town of Strabane that uncovered two military hand grenades, a handgun, over 50 rounds of ammunition, and over a kilogram of plastic explosives.
The searches were followed by an outbreak of public disorder, with police officers being attacked with petrol bombs and other makeshift missiles. In total, 16 police officers suffered injuries during the aftermath, including burns and suspected fractures.
On Friday, in the Rosemount area of Derry, police also recovered a machine gun pistol and six explosive devices. So far, three people, two men and one woman, have been arrested under the Terrorism Act, with connections to the New IRA being the “primary” line of inquiry.
The New IRA — believed to have been formed around 2011 as an outgrowth of the original IRA and other paramilitary groups — is one of the most active paramilitary terror groups in attacking Northern Ireland police and British security forces in the UK country.
While there is currently considerably less violence than during “The Troubles”, tensions have been rising in Northern Ireland, particularly amid efforts from the European Union to isolate the country from the rest of the United Kingdom economically following Brexit.
Police sources, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, claimed that the hand grenades recovered during the operation are believed to be of a newer type used by the Russian Army.
The sources said that weapons from the Ukrainian war were increasingly appearing in the possession of criminal gangs and paramilitary groups operating in Northern Ireland.
It is believed that the weapons may have been smuggled into the country after being stolen by foreign mercenaries who flooded into the war zone last year, with an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters joining the Ukrainian Army during the outset of the war.
It is unclear as to which side of the war the grenades recovered by the Northern Ireland Police came from, given that Ukraine has used Soviet-era weaponry and has captured Russian weapons throughout the fighting.
At a press conference following the raids, Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said: “The significance of this recovery cannot be underestimated.
“These items are military grade and we believe the intention was to mount attacks in an attempt to kill Police Officers.
“Whilst the investigation is ongoing, and while we keep an open mind, the primary line of enquiry centres on the NIRA.
“Not only was the intention here to kill and maim but there is a total disregard for the wider community.
“These items were being stored in a residential area in close proximity to a children’s play area and any attack that would have been mounted would have taken place within our communities.”