Nabbed: The moment gardai seized AK47s in Meath
A haul of weapons and ammunition seized by gardaí on Thursday night was being moved from a safe house and ultimately intended for use in another feud-related hit.
Three men were arrested by gardaí after the major arms and ammunition seizure.
Gardaí believe the confiscation of the haul prevented a further escalation of the feud that has already claimed four lives, and they are satisfied that their interception in Ratoath, Co Meath stopped more tit-for-tat killings.
Our picture shows members of the elite Special Detective Unit (SDU) as they search a black Audi SUV and a saloon car after ramming the vehicles off a road in Co Meath.
Dozens of armed detectives from both regional and national units were involved in the evening raids during which four automatic and semi- automatic weapons as well as more than 500 rounds of ammunition were recovered.
The seizure followed an extensive intelligence gathering operation involving officers from the drugs and organised crime bureau as well as the crime and security section.
Senior officers said last night that the Garda operation had already been in place before the murder of Noel Duggan on Wednesday night.
Investigating officers, backed up by heavily armed members of the emergency response unit, forced two cars to a halt outside Ratoath on Thursday evening and recovered two AK47 assault rifles and around 200 rounds of ammunition for the weapons. Two men were detained at the scene and taken from the cars.
In a follow up search in the village, gardaí raided a house and found two semi-automatic pistols as well as a silencer and ammunition for the guns.
The third suspect was arrested in the house.
All three, who are in their 30s, are still being held for questioning under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act at Ashbourne and Kells stations.
They can be detained without charge for up to 72 hours.
Criminals linked to Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch and Christy Kinahan have been locked in a murderous campaign since an armed assault on a boxing event at the Regency Hotel in Drumcondra last month.
The identity of the next intended victim in the bloody feud between the Hutch and Kinahan factions is not yet known.
Garda technical bureau experts were yesterday carrying out tests on the seized weapons to determine if any of them had been used in the Regency Hotel murder of David Byrne, who was a member of the Kinahan crime cartel.
The seized weapons are also undergoing fingerprint checks at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Meanwhile, officers investigating the murder of cigarette smuggler Duggan as he sat in his car outside his Ratoath home have not yet pinned down the motive for his shooting, apart from his close friendship with Gerry Hutch.
Gardai said they had no intelligence suggesting that Duggan was under threat as a result of the feud, and his family have also indicated they were not aware of any risks to his life.
However, detectives are examining his contacts in the criminal underworld and, in particular, his links with other cigarette smugglers, who include a number of former Provisional IRA activists.