16 handguns found in Castlereagh alert (UTV)

Sixteen modern semi-automatic handguns and over 800 rounds of ammunition have been found in Castlereagh after what police described as the biggest arms find in Northern Ireland in years.

The weapons haul was discovered during a security alert in the Lisnabreeny estate on the Manse Road outside Belfast on Friday evening.

The road was closed between the Rocky Road and Garland Hill overnight as detectives from the Serious Crime Branch recovered the items.

Detective Superintendent Wright from Serious Crime Branch said: “The recovery of these weapons has undoubtedly thwarted the attempts of criminals to inflict death, injury and misery on the community.”

It is believed the cache of arms, which was buried, was discovered by a passer-by who alerted police.

South Belfast DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt said: “Lisnabreeny House is owned by the National Trust and is in an area where many people walk on a daily basis, and only a short distance from Lagan College.

“It is a very worrying development that these arms have been found there. I would urge anyone who noticed any suspicious activity or has any information to pass it on to the PSNI immediately.”

The weapons have been taken away for further examination as investigations continue.

Alliance councillor Geraldine Rice said: “We have to praise the PSNI for their vigilance in discovering this arms cache and acting so quickly.

“In today’s world, goodness knows what the weapons would have been used for and how much damage to people they would cause.”

The area has reopened.

Police say they want to speak to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area of Glen Cregagh Road at the junction with Manse Road, known locally as Cregagh Glen, in Castlereagh.

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