Well-known loyalist arrested in Belfast raids, believed to be in connection with fake Simon Coveney bombing

A high-profile loyalist is one of two people arrested in a dramatic PSNI operation.

The 46-year-old man was arrested Wednesday morning by specialist terrorist agents on Belfast’s Shankill Road.

A second 51-year-old man has been arrested in the Ballymena area, and two suspected firearms have also been recovered.

Searches were made at a home in Ballysillan in north Belfast.

The arrest is said to be related to a hoax bomb warning in March that prompted Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney to flee a peacebuilding event.

During the incident, loyalist gunmen hijacked a workman’s van on Sydney Street in the Shankill and told him he would be shot or his family would be injured if he didn’t do as he was told.

An item, later discovered to be a fake bomb, was then placed in the man’s van and the victim was told to drive it to the Houben Center on Crumlin Road, where Secretary Coveney was attending a peace event.

The event was organized by the John and Pat Hume Foundation.

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Police find a car in the Disraeli Street area of ​​north Belfast on June 8, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph).

Coveney later said of the attack: “I was there to speak about the profound legacy of John and Pat Hume as peacemakers and pioneers of reconciliation.

“What I said there that day was that the Good Friday Agreement has been reached by everyone and belongs to all of us.

“That should not only mean tolerance, but also genuine respect and reconciliation.”

Police later said the fake bomb was the work of the UVF.

The attack on the event, linked to tensions over Northern Ireland protocol, is said to have been approved by the UVF leadership.

Two people have already been charged in connection with the incident.

One of the men arrested on Wednesday is an acquaintance and works for a number of publicly funded organizations.

A police spokesman said: “A 46-year-old man was arrested under the Terrorism Act in the Shankill area. Two suspected firearms were found and a vehicle was taken for investigation.

“As part of the operation, a 51-year-old man was arrested in the Ballymena area under the Terrorism Act. A van has been seized and taken for investigation.

“Both men are currently being questioned in the Serious Crime Suite at Musgrave Police Station in Belfast”.

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