Anti-aircraft guns seized in raid on 'armourers'

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The Independent Online

Four anti-aircraft guns, a number of grenades and a mortar have been seized in a police operation against a gang of suspected underworld weap-ons suppliers.

Four anti-aircraft guns, a number of grenades and a mortar have been seized in a police operation against a gang of suspected underworld weap-ons suppliers.

Six men were arrested after dozens of armed officers made a series of raids in Essex and London. Two were arrested in a cemetery, allegedly completing the sale of a heavy machine- gun.

Scotland Yard believes that the weapons would have been used for armed robberies, contract killings and drug-related shootings. A spokesman stressed that the weapons cache was not connected to any terrorist activities.

The weapons, which included the explosives, ammunition and an MP40 machine pistol, were discovered on Tuesday at a cemetery in Fundersley in the Benfleet area of Essex, a house in Woodford Green, north-east London and a farm buildingin Essex. The four militarymachine-guns had barrels that were several feet long. They are capable of shooting through the armour plating used in security vans.

Detectives were continuing to search for more firearms last night. A police source said that they were "ripping the places apart". The six people arrested were being questioned at various police stations in Essex and east London. They are all believed to live in London and Essex.

Among the six men arrested were two underworld gun dealers who are accused of supplying London criminals with firearms.

A police source said: "One of the arrested men is believed to be an armourer for London. Another man is involved in adapting deactivated firearms."

Officers involved in the investigation are understood to have recovered equipment to reactivate weapons that are supposed to have been made safe. Police have reported a rise in the use of "deactivated" guns by criminals.

The raids were made by 50 members of the Metropolitan Police's Serious and Organised Crime Command, supported by armed officers from Essex and the Met.

They follow an operation to foocus on the suppliers of firearms and weapons dealers in the capital.

There have been growing concerns at the number of shootings in London, particularly involving disputes between rival drug gangs. Dealers will rent out weapons for specific jobs so the same gun can be used for several crimes. Detective Chief Superintendent John Coles, head of the serious and organised crime command team, said: "This was an intelligence-led operation targeting individuals who we believe are involved in the trafficking of heavy weaponry in London. We believe we have recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives which were intended to be sold to criminals who would use them in the commission of armed robberies, contract killings and drugrelated shootings."

Mike Dennison, a computer consultant, saw dozens of officers raid the house in a street in Woodford Green.

He said: "There were police officers everywhere. One of the homes was cordoned off and officers were walking in and out all the time. The area is very well-to-do and this has come as a bit of a shock."