ARMED police are raiding soldiers’ homes in search of an assault rifle that has gone missing from a secure armoury at Dreghorn Barracks.
The base was put on “lockdown” while military police hunted for the standard issue SA80 rifle that disappeared as members of 1 Scots rehearsed for homecoming parades.
Cars were searched and members of A, B and C company have been interviewed to try and ascertain where the weapon has gone.
Night vision scopes and army clothing have also gone missing, which army insiders are saying were likely to have been stolen to order.
A barracks source said: “It’s really worrying, a weapon like that could obviously do a lot of damage.
“It doesn’t bear thinking about what someone wants it for, but they must have something planned.
“Whoever’s taken it, it’s clearly long gone now. It just proves though how lapse security was before this has happened.
“It has been crazy around here since, with extra checks on who’s going in and out.
“I’ve heard there’s been armed raids on at least three homes and searches made of about ten others.”
The source said officers swooped at the properties on the Dreghorn estate, which houses infantrymen and their families, in the early hours of Sunday.
Further houses have been searched by members of the military’s Special Investigations Branch in the last few days.
Army officials realised the weapon was missing when soldiers, who had been preparing for the homecoming parades, went to sign their weapons back in to the store.
One rifle, which had never been signed out, was unaccounted for, leading to a mass operation into the security breach by army and civilian police.
A former police officer said authorities would be desperate to trace the weapon that was “capable of great damage”.
He said: “This is a semi-automatic, high velocity weapon, capable of doing great damage, which is why the army use it.
“Authorities will be worried as it’s a very lethal, high performance weapon. In the wrong hands, someone who had ammunition could do some real damage.”
Troops will march down the Royal Mile on Saturday as planned before being granted the Freedom of the City. A parade will also be staged in Haddington.
Last month, it was revealed that members of the 1 Scots, Royal Scots Borderers, will be moved from their Capital base to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
An army spokeswoman confirmed an investigation was ongoing into the disappearance of the weapon.
She said: “We can confirm that a weapon has been unaccounted for. The Special Investigations Branch investigation is ongoing.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police in Edinburgh assisted colleagues in the Royal Military Police at Dreghorn Barracks on April 11 as part of an ongoing inquiry there.”
HUGE FEE ON BLACK MARKET
THE SA80 assault rifle has been the British Army’s standard combat weapon since 1986.
It has been used in conflicts worldwide, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Made by Heckler and Koch, it has a range of 400 yards. They each hold a 30-round magazine, weigh around 10lbs loaded, and cost MoD paymasters £1200 each.
Scarcity means they can command a huge fee on the black market, with a £5000 price tag not uncommon for combat standard weapons. Complaints about the SA80’s reliability led to an £80m modification programme in 2000.