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Bombs away

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — A loyalist bomb factory was found last weekend in North Belfast, containing 11 pipe bombs, home-made explosives and a primed bomb consisting of 45l pounds of explosives packed into a fire extinguisher.

The haul was discovered in an apartment in the Mount Vernon area, which is known as a UVF stronghold. The explosives were different in quality from those currently being used in the continuing sectarian UDA pipe-bombing campaign across the North.

There were no arrests.

David Ervine, the Progressive Unionist Party spokesman, insisted the haul was left over from last summer’s feud with the UDA. He said that if drugs found in the same block of apartments turned out to belong to the UVF, he would be "gravely concerned." The PUP is the political wing of the UVF.

Ervine said an investigation within the UVF is under way and when he was given the answer, "the people of Northern Ireland will hear it loud and clear." He denied the explosives would be used against Catholics.

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Most worrying for the RUC was finding the primed fire extinguisher bomb, which was far bigger than the pipe bombs used by loyalists during recent attacks on Catholic families. RUC Superintendent Roger Maxwell said all the materials were "extremely unstable" and residents nearby had been put at serious risk.

More than 50 pipe bomb attacks made on Catholic families across Northern Ireland since the new year had been blamed on the UDA. The campaign has continued unabated this week, with Catholic families targeted almost every night.

A Belfast couple, whose home was destroyed in a loyalist pipe bomb attack 10 days ago, have cancelled their wedding after the bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses were destroyed.

Joanne McNally and her four children have been left homeless after the bomb, connected to a gallon can of gasoline, reduced their home to a burned-out shell.

"The [Northern Ireland Office] might give us some compensation, but that could take months or even years to come through," she said.

Meanwhile, police say the two latest pipe bomb attacks in County Antrim were sectarian. No one was injured when the devices were thrown through windows of homes in Broughshane early Monday morning.

The campaign has widened from its base in East and North Antrim and North Belfast, where police say it was started by known anti-Agreement UDA figures.

Sinn Fein’s Joe O’Donnell said the latest attack was part of an "ongoing pogrom" against Catholics in the Short Strand area of Belfast and the UDA were intent on stepping up their campaign there.

Two men are believed to be behind the attacks in East and North Antrim. One is known as "The Mexican" and was also behind the Greysteel massacre in the Rising Sun bar. Another served a jail sentence for the attempted murder of a senior member of Sinn Fein.

Both individuals responsible for the County Antrim attacks are known to be anti-Agreement.

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