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A MAN has been arrested after police found an explosive device during a security alert at a flat in Newtownards.

Residents living in the Rosevale Avenue area of the town were evacuated from their homes for over nine hours on Tuesday following the discovery of a suspicious object at a flat in the area.

Following an examination by army bomb disposal officers, the object was declared a ‘viable explosive device’. 

A 34 year-old man was arrested and taken into custody for questioning on suspicion of making explosives under suspicious circumstances and possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances.

He is also being questioned on suspicion of possession of a class C drug.

A police spokesperson said the device was made safe and removed from the flat along with a number of suspected firearms for further examination. 

“Local residents have returned to their homes and officers would like to thank all those affected by this incident for their patience,” added the spokesperson. Police remain at the scene at this time conducting further enquiries.”

Strangford MP Jim Shannon said he was ‘surprised’ to hear about the incident on Tuesday, adding that his office remained in contact with the police during the event.

He said: “I am given to understand that residents were out of their homes for over nine hours until after 8pm. This was distressing not only for these residents of the apartment complex but also for the neighbouring streets.

“I am thankful that the gentleman in question was arrested and is in custody and the items found will be removed from circulation within our community.

“It is incredibly fortunate that the PSNI were able to have this removed by the bomb squad without incident and the other items were also removed and I thank and congratulate all those involved.”

Ards and North Down alderman Naomi Armstrong-Cotter, who lives near the area evacuated, had been at home with her sick daughter when the incident occurred.

The DUP alderman said she had worried she would be asked to evacuate and worried about having to take her sick daughter with her to a local community centre to wait out the incident, but was ‘pleased’ this was not the case.

“Whilst this wasn’t my experience, it was the experience of a large number of residents who were out of their homes and offered a community centre to sit in ‘like refugees’ as it was put to me,” she said.

“This really was a frightening circumstance and it is good news that the PSNI were so quick to get the bomb squad around and on top of the situation and my sincere thanks to all those involved.

“It’s great to see these items and drugs that were discovered in police custody and the gentleman arrested and being questioned.

“This community is a quiet residential area and this was so out of the blue and out of place, and all of the local community are grateful to those who made it safe.”

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