Large cache of weapons discovered last week belonged to gang behind two recent shootings

The Sunday world can reveal the gang – made up of members of a well-known Co Armagh family – had planted the weapons to be used in a turf war against enemies encroaching on their territory.

They would also be used to rob post offices and credit unions to bolster their coffers as they expand their drug trade both north and south of the border.

The discovery of the “significant weapons cache” by Armagh police has been described as a major blow to the gang.

The firearms and ammunition were seized during a search operation at Crossmaglen on Monog Road last Monday and Tuesday.

Numerous firearms, including an assault rifle, two shotguns, three revolvers and seven handguns, as well as ammunition were seized.

According to one source, they were left at the location under cover of darkness until a more suitable hiding place could be found.

The weapons had only recently been hidden. However, police moved in and began searching almost immediately after receiving the information – preventing the gang from recovering the weapons.

A source told this Sunday world: “The police received a tip. They knew the area to be searched – not the exact location, but the whereabouts. The weapons are gone, but the question now is: how and who? Was it someone from the inside?

“Well, that’s the general consensus, but since the shootings in September the gang has been under surveillance. Therefore, in hindsight, it was reckless to move the weapons.”

The criminal gang, which has links to Garda killer Aaron Brady, has recently been blamed for two attempted murders in south Armagh.

Aaron Brady is serving a life sentence for the murder of Garda Adrian Donohoe

Brady is serving a life sentence for the capital murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in Co Louth in 2013.

One of the most recent attacks attributed to the gang occurred shortly after 6:30 a.m. on September 4th.

A man in his 30s was sitting in a car on Ballsmill Road, near Crossmaglen, waiting to be picked up for work.

Another vehicle pulled up next to it and a man with his face covered got out and shot the victim in the arm and neck.

A short time later, the seriously injured man was found lying on the road by a passing driver and taken to hospital.

The PSNI said it was a “pre-planned and targeted attack” on a man who parked his car in the same place every day.

In the second attack this month, a man was shot in the stomach in the village of Meigh on September 16.

Shortly before 2 a.m., multiple shots were fired at a home in Gullion View.

The victim, a 50-year-old, was hit by one of the bullets and seriously injured.

Both victims suffered serious injuries in the attacks but are apparently on the road to recovery.

None of the victims are involved in the drug trade into which the gang has branched out.

Garda Adrian Donohoe

“These shootings were just the beginning,” another source said. “There will be consequences and there is too much money at stake.

“The gang behind the shootings will not share in the profits from their illegal activities and will eliminate anyone who gets in their way.

“They have already proven how far they will go to protect what they consider to be their property.”

The gang, which has been active for many years, initially focused on fuel smuggling, but sources say it is now heavily involved in the drug trade – particularly cocaine shipments to Northern Ireland.

The gang is believed to have links to other criminal groups across Ireland and beyond.

They used their connections with other criminal gangs in the south, particularly in Dublin, to obtain the seized weapons.

At the time of the two shootings, a local source reported Sunday world that the gang believed they could get away with anything.

“They are a law unto themselves,” he said.

“There’s no doubt about it, they went out to kill these two guys. These were not attacks where someone was shot in the leg as a warning. Shooting someone in the neck and stomach shows that you are intent on killing them.”

Five people were arrested this week in connection with the shooting in Crossmaglen.

The men – two of whom are 31 years old, the others 32, 35 and 58 years old – were subsequently released on bail pending further inquiries.

After his arrest, the 35-year-old was accused of several drug offenses. He has yet to appear in court.

PSNI Newry District Commander Morne & Down Superintendent Norman Haslett said the “proactive” search uncovered “a significant weapons cache” buried in a hedge on agricultural land.

“Several suspected firearms were found at the hideout, including an assault rifle, two shotguns, three revolvers and seven handguns, as well as a significant amount of ammunition,” he added.

“The Major Crime Unit is carrying out further investigations and all items will now be subject to forensic testing.

“We remain open-minded about the possession of these firearms, but these searches send a clear message to those involved in organized criminal activity that we will continue to disrupt their activities so that our communities can live in peace and without fear.”

“I would appeal to anyone with information about any suspicious activity or about the items we have found over the last few weeks to contact police on 101.

“Alternatively, information can be passed on to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100 per cent anonymous and gives people the opportunity to have their voices heard and stop crime.”


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