Arms Stolen from Military Base; Recovered Within Hours
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ A group of men broke into a military base Sunday and stole a large quantity of weapons, but within hours police recovered all the guns and arrested several men, officials reported.
The British Broadcasting Corp. and Britain’s domestic news agency, Press Association, said the arrested men are Protestant militants, but police refused to describe them in any way.
Officials said the men stole guns and ammunition after cutting through wire fencing and overpowering guards at the predominantly Protestant Ulster Defense Regiment base at Coleraine, County Londonderry. The base, 80 miles northwest of Belfast, is company headquarters of the Fifth Battalion of the locally recruited regiment.
Northern Ireland, a British province, also is known as Ulster.
Some of the guns were found in a van stopped by police on a highway near Belfast. Police said the van’s driver was arrested and that two men were arrested at their homes in Belfast. They also said an unspecified number of suspects were picked up in Coleraine.
Police said no shots were fired in any of the arrests, but refused to disclose details about the operation that led to the recovery of the guns. They also refused to identify the arrested men or say how many people took part in the arms raid.
It was the third raid on an Ulster Defense Regiment armory in 10 years. Both previous cases involved Protestant militants determined to keep Northern Ireland a British province.
Protestants outnumber Roman Catholics 3-2 in Northern Ireland and control the province’s economy and politics. Guerrillas of the predominantly Catholic Irish Republican Army have been fighting for years to unite Northern Ireland with the mainly Catholic Irish Republic.
The IRA is outlawed in both Britain and Ireland.