Two arrested as Belfast siege drama ends

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The Independent Online

Two men were arrested today in Northern Ireland after a seven-hour stand-off with armed police ended peacefully.

A major security operation was put in place at 5am in Powerscourt Place, Belfast, this morning after pellets were shot from the building, damaging cars parked nearby.

Two men had barricaded themselves into the recently vacated house but the siege ended shortly before 12 noon after police negotiators and a local priest intervened.

Following reports that an air rifle had been spotted during the incident, police would only confirm that a suspected firearm had been taken away for further examination.

The two men aged 25 and 28 are now in police custody.

The security alert centred on a residential area near the Ormeau Road, a busy route for commuters making their way into the south of the city during the early morning.

Families had been asked not to leave neighbouring houses until the incident was resolved.

Police commander for the area Chief Superintendent Brian Maguire thanked the public for their help.

"I would like to thank local residents for their patience and cooperation, (and) regret any inconvenience caused, however our priority was the safety of the community," he said.

"I would also pay tribute to the professionalism of the highly trained officers, including negotiators, who skilfully brought this dangerous and complex situation to a successful conclusion."

Part of the building had been boarded up with metal screens that are routinely erected on vacant properties by the housing authorities to prevent vandalism.

While the stand-off continued, the two men had barricaded themselves into the house and an Irish tricolour was hung out of a broken window.

The Housing Executive (HE), which manages social housing, confirmed it owned the property.

The HE said: "The property at Powerscourt Place was not the subject of an eviction notice, indeed the legal tenant of the property transferred to another Housing Executive property with effect from 27 April 2009.

"As is normal procedure, when a tenancy is terminated, the house was secured pending reallocation.

"The Housing Executive is aware of the incident and is keen to see the matter resolved as quickly as possible."

Alliance party representative for the South Belfast constituency Anna Lo was among those who had appealed for a peaceful end to the stand-off.

"This incident has shocked the community greatly," she said.

"It is deeply worrying that there is an armed stand off in such a residential area."

* This article is from the Belfast Telegraph.