Weapons seized from a loyalist arms dump will undergo ballistic tests to establish if they were used in recent sectarian murders, it was confirmed today.
Inspector John McVea said the raid on the loyalist Rathcoole Estate on the outskirts of North Belfast was part of a major crackdown on paramilitaries.
“It is part of continuing investigations into loyalist paramilitary activity and particularly recent sectarian murders in the North Belfast and Rathcoole areas.”
Forensic experts have already carried out DNA testing and will carry out further examinations to discover if the weapons had been fired before.
Police believe the weapons cache found yesterday belonged to the Ulster Defence Association, which last year murdered Catholic postman Daniel McGolgan at Rathcoole Sorting Office and Protestant teenager Gavin Brett, gunned down as he stood with friends a mile away in Glengormley.
Earlier this year the UDA shot Catholic teenager Gerard Lawlor dead in the nearby Whitewell area. He was singled out because he was wearing a Glasgow Celtic shirt.
Inspector McVea said yesterday’s discovery of 10 guns, two pipe bombs, a booby trap device and hundreds of rounds of ammunition had almost certainly saved more lives.
“In my opinion the people who have control and access to these weapons have murder in their minds and we are obviously delighted to have these weapons out of their hands.
“I would believe it is a setback to them, it is a significant find,” he added.
A 38-year-old man is still being questioned by detectives about the arms haul, which was found in two holdalls in the roof space of a house.
Police in North Belfast today put on display the weapons, which included home made sub-machine guns, a shotgun, machine pistols, pipe bombs and a deadly device designed to kill somebody opening a door.
Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde last month launched a major offensive against all paramilitaries and yesterday’s seizure was by far the largest.
The UDA’s North Belfast commander, Andre Shoukri was arrested in the same loyalist housing estate last month and later charged with possessing an illegal weapon.