Army bomb experts recover a fully armed handheld rocket launcher in County Tyrone on the morning of February 29, 2000. It is found at the side of a house near the rear of Killymeal Army base in Dungannon. The discovery comes just hours after it is learned that large amounts of Semtex high explosive have been stolen from Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) hides.
The weapon is linked to dissident republicans and is of a type not seen in the province before. It is believed to have originated in eastern Europe and has been abandoned by those about to carry out an attack at the rear of the army base. The weapon is similar to one recently seized by the security forces in the Republic of Ireland and linked to the Real IRA.
The rocket launcher is found just after pupils have finished traveling to three local schools. The nearby leisure centre is also closed. Families are removed from their homes on Killymeal Road while the device is investigated.
Superintendent Julie Lindsay says that to abandon such a device in the area is an “act of indescribable recklessness which clearly put the life of people living nearby in danger.” She says officers were able to prevent children from walking by the garden where the device was located as they were going to the leisure centre.
Ken Maginnis, Ulster Unionist Security spokesman and Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, says the discovery of the weapon vindicates his party’s insistence that paramilitaries should disarm. He also says it proves that republicans are “wedded to the past.”
Social Democratic and Labour Party councillor Vincent Currie says the find will bring back bad memories of a previous mortar bomb attack on the army base which devastated many houses in the area. He adds that it is lunacy to leave such a device on a road used by schoolchildren.