Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 09:08 UK

CIRA gang admit possessing bomb

Bomb scene
The mortar was found near the Cornakinnegar Road in County Armagh

Three men have admitted possessing an improvised mortar bomb found two years ago near Lurgan, County Armagh.

A live mortar, complete with launching tube, was found near the Cornakinnegar Road on 5 April 2007.

Damien McKenna, 26, Deans Walk, Gary Toman, 24, Drumnahoe Avenue and Sean McConville, 23, Kilwilkie Road, all in Lurgan, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court.

The police said they believed the men were members of the Continuity IRA.

They also said the mortar was designed to be fired horizontally into a passing police or Army vehicle.

Earlier court hearings were told that the men were being watched by members of an Army special forces unit in March 2007 - McKenna had been under observation for up to six months.

The unit saw the men behaving suspiciously in a field and they were arrested by police as they drove away.

McKenna and McConville had dirty hands and wet and dirty trousers.

McKenna, who was the front seat passenger, was also found to have on him items which included a circuit tester, wire cutters and gloves. McConville, who was the driver, was found to have gloves.

Semtex

Searches initially failed to uncover the bomb and the gang was released without charge

However, they were re-arrested a week later after police found a mortar tube and warhead containing Semtex plastic explosive about a mile from where the car had been stopped.

Fibre and DNA evidence linked them to the bomb.

If the case had gone to trial the special forces soldiers would have been expected to give evidence.

In a statement on Wednesday police said the planned attack was "a disgusting conspiracy to murder" with a "callous disregard" for the community.

"There is no doubt that if it had not been found, terrorist criminals would have attempted to carry out a vicious attack on security force personnel," said Detective Chief Inspector David McConville.

"It is also highly likely that a member of the public could have been killed or severely injured."



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