A child could have been killed had they come across bomb parts left by terrorists in a forest near Larne, it has been claimed.
Two members of the public were walking in Capanagh Wood on Saturday evening when they discovered a cache of bomb-making parts.
Detectives are now working to establish if the weekend’s sinister discovery is linked to a terrorist hide found at nearby Carnfunnock Country Park in March.
The latest haul has been described by local politicians as an “extremely worrying” development.
East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson said those who had stored the deadly items at the popular dog walking spot were employing a “highly dangerous tactic which is putting innocent lives at risk”.
“There is an element of trying to hide these items under the noses of the people of East Antrim, in places which are well-used by members of the public,” the Alliance representative added.
“The fact that these items were not terribly well hidden shows an abject disregard for human life.
“This is a popular spot for dog walkers and Duke of Edinburgh students, and if a curious child had found these items they could potentially have been maimed or killed.
“This minority looking to cause instability and drag us back to the bad old days of violence and terror are fighting a losing battle. They are to be condemned utterly.”
DUP MLA Gordon Lyons spoke of his “shock” at the latest discovery and urged the public to be vigilant.
He added: “There was great deal of surprise in the local area at that time and people had hoped that it was an isolated incident. Sadly that was not the case and there will be much concern in the area at this development.
“These are very public areas which are being used to hide this equipment and there is no excuse for this type of activity. It was wrong 40 years ago and it is wrong now. Those who are engaged in this need to get off the scene and leave people in peace.”
Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan hoped the discovery of suspected bomb-making components would help protect lives.
The East Antrim MLA added: “I’m glad this material discovered in Capanagh Forest has been taken out of circulation and will not be used to endanger life.
“The fact that those would try to roll back the progress we have made as a society, regardless of who they claim to represent, will not be able to use these components is to be welcomed.
“There is no reason, rationale or justification for the existence of armed groups in this day and age.”
Roy Beggs, Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim said: “The entire Larne community is grateful to the PSNI who have uncovered a further terror hide. By uncovering component parts of an explosive nature, lives may well have been saved.
“I would urge anyone who has seen any suspicious activity in Capanagh Forest or elsewhere to pass information to the police so that those intent on violence can be apprehended.”
The bomb-making items have now been taken away for further forensic examination.
Detective Inspector Adrian Brown from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch added: “This investigation is at a very early stage and we are working to establish whether this find is linked to a terrorist hide that was discovered at Carnfunnock Country Park in March.
“I would ask the public to remain vigilant wherever they are and whatever they are doing.
“If you see any suspicious activity, or have seen anything unusual in this area, please contact police so that we can act on the given information.”
The terrorist hide unearthed at Carnfunnock included a number of small plastic barrels, which contained significant amount of bomb making components including partially-constructed devices and a small quantity of explosives.