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Male (51) arrested in Ballymena charged by Detectives from Terrorism Investigation Unit

A 51-year-old male arrested in Ballymena earlier this week, has been charged with a number of offences by Detectives from the Terrorism Investigation Unit.

He has been charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a handgun without a certificate and possession of ammunition without a certificate.

He is due to appear before Laganside Magistrate Court on Monday, June 13.

As is usual procedure all charges will be reviewed by the PPS.

The male was arrested under the Terrorism Act shortly after lunchtime on Wednesday (June 8), when a red van was stopped by police at the entrance of the Heath & Care Centre, Cushendall Road, in Ballymena.

The van he was driving was seized and taken away for examination.

Subsequently detectives were granted a 34 hour extension to detain the man by Belfast Magistrates Court on Friday morning (June 10).

Another man was arrested on the Shankill Road, Belfast, in connection with the investigation.

Leading Loyalist 46-year-old Winston ‘Winkie’ Irvine was charged to appear before Belfast Magistrate’s Court on Saturday (June 11).

District Judge George Conner denied the application for bail, saying a "significant haul of weapons and ammunition" had been recovered.

Irvine was remanded in custody to appear in court again on July 1.

Both arrests are understood to be in connection with a security alert in Belfast back in March when a van was hijacked in the city. Police said the driver of the van was threatened by two gunmen and forced to drive a device, which he believed to be a live bomb, to a specified location.

The van was abandoned outside The Houben Centre on the Crumlin Road, where Irish Government minister Simon Coveney was speaking at a peace event, organised by the John and Pat Hume Foundation.

The Minister was interrupted by security officials and evacuated from the scene. A funeral service at nearby Holy Cross Church was also disrupted.

The item in the van turned out to be a hoax bomb.


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