A Royal Marine has pleaded guilty to preparing for a terrorist attack by stashing explosives in purpose-built caches in England and Northern Ireland.

Ciaran Maxwell, 31, of Exminster, was arrested over the discovery of a terrorist arsenal in Northern Ireland in August last year. He pleaded guilty to terrorist acts between January 2011 and August 2016. He stashed the equipment in a number of purposes built hides in Northern Ireland and near his Royal Marine base in Devon. But he was caught when police uncovered one of the stashes in a country park near Larne and found traces of Maxwell’s DNA on some of the weapons.

He compiled a library of terrorism documents, including instructions on how to make explosives and tactics used by terrorist organizations. He also had maps, plans, and lists of potential targets for a terrorist attack and images of an adapted PSNI pass card and a PSNI uniform. He bought chemicals and components and went on to manufacture explosives and devices, the court heard. Maxwell was also charged with possessing images of bank cards for fraud and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

Maxwell, who grew up in the predominantly Protestant unionist town of Larne, used the cover of being a British soldier to aid Irish republican dissidents opposed to peace and power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

In 2002, aged 16, Maxwell sustained serious injuries in a vicious sectarian attack carried out by young Larne loyalists. He was beaten with iron bars and golf clubs resulting in a fractured skull and severe bruising to his body.

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