Northern Ireland

NI terrorism: Royal Marine arrested over Northern Ireland-related terrorism still being held

Ciarán Maxwell Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Ciarán Maxwell was arrested after searches in Larne, County Antrim, and Devon

A serving Royal Marine, arrested in Somerset as part of an investigation into Northern Ireland-related terrorism, is still being questioned.

Ciarán Maxwell, 30, from Larne, was detained in Somerset by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's Counter Terrorism Command on Wednesday.

The arrest is understood to be connected to the discovery of two arms dumps near Larne earlier this year.

These finds were thought to be linked to dissident republican paramilitaries.

It has emerged that Mr Maxwell was the victim of a sectarian attack in 2002, when he was 16, and suffered a fractured skull.

The story was reported at the time in the republican newspaper An Phoblacht.

In an interview with the newspaper in July 2002, the then teenager described how he had been struck by a bottle, struggled to his feet and tried to run away.

The paper reported: "At this point, up to ten loyalists arrived in two cars. This gang was armed with iron bars and golf clubs and they immediately attacked Kieran. He was beaten to the ground and lost consciousness."

The paper said some Catholic youths who witnessed the attack went to his aid. The eyewitnesses explained that loyalists, who seemed to be waiting in ambush, kept beating him "as he lay prone on the ground".

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Media captionCh Insp Antony Hart gives details of the arrest and searches

House searches

Mr Maxwell was arrested after searches in Larne and Devon on Wednesday.

The operation involved several UK police forces, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

It is understood MI5 is also involved in the operation in England which is likely to continue all weekend.

You can follow the latest developments on the police investigation at the BBC Devon and Cornwall live page.

Following the arrest on Wednesday afternoon, police in Devon searched a house in Exminster and a wooded area nearby.

Image caption Forensic investigators were involved in the Larne searches

The PSNI searched at least two houses on the Old Glenarm Road in Larne.

It is understood that a number of laptops and mobile phones were seized from the houses as part of the investigation.

A woman, who said she was the aunt of Ciarán Maxwell, expressed fears for her family's safety following his arrest.

She said the family only became aware this afternoon that police searches were being carried out.

The wider family are believed to be well known in the town.

Significant arms cache

In March, the PSNI said they had uncovered a "significant terrorist hide" of bomb-making components and explosives at Carnfunnock Country Park.

Among the items recovered were wiring, circuit boards, partially constructed power timer units and a small quantity of explosives.

In May, a second significant arms cache, including an armour-piercing improvised rocket and two anti-personnel mines, was found at Capanagh Forest, near Larne.

'Intelligence-led'

Mr Maxwell is suspected of being involved in preparing for acts of terrorism and is being held at a West Country police station.

Police said the operation was pre-planned and intelligence-led as part of a collaboration between the Met, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the South West Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit.

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Media captionPolice searches in Larne follow the arrest of a Royal Marine over Northern Ireland-related terrorism

Devon and Cornwall Police said they will be carrying out patrols to try to reassure the community following the anti-terrorism operation in Devon.

The force said there was no intelligence to suggest a threat to the community.

Image caption Searches in Devon focused on a house in Exminster and a wooded area nearby

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