Armed detectives were last night continuing their manhunt for a north Dublin criminal after they foiled a suspected gangland hit.
Gardai seized a loaded handgun in Coolock on Saturday night after they pursued a masked man in the Stardust Memorial Park.
The suspect escaped following a brief foot chase, but a Beretta handgun along with ammunition were found at the scene.
The Herald can reveal that gardai have been carrying out searches over the weekend for a 31-year-old Coolock criminal who they suspect was the armed man who fled from the park.
He is centrally involved in the ongoing feud in the area which has seen a spate of shootings, foiled hits and arson attacks in recent months.
A source last night told the Herald that a number of properties linked to the criminal have been searched but that he remains at large.
"The suspect was wearing a balaclava but gardai are confident of his identity, and believe that a hit was imminent when they came across him.
"The situation in Coolock is extremely tense and local officers as well as national units are actively attempting to prevent any further serious incidents."
At around 9pm on Saturday night gardai came across the masked man.
The suspect is said to have panicked and threw away an object before fleeing from the scene on foot.
Following a search of the area a loaded Beretta was recovered.
A garda spokeswoman said: "It's understood a male fled from gardai on foot.
"A firearm was located at the scene. No arrests have been made and investigations are continuing."
Immediately after the discovery, searches were carried out on a Coolock home linked to the criminal.
Yesterday, local officers backed up by armed gardai were continuing their searches in an attempt to track down the suspect. The man being hunted by gardai has also been blamed for a shooting at the house of a young criminal in Clonshaugh last weekend.
However, an innocent family were lucky nobody was injured when one bullet went through the upstairs window of their home.
Detectives suspect he carried out the gun attack on behalf of associates of murdered drug dealer Sean Little who are targeting a 22-year-old local thug.
Last Thursday, a home linked to the on-the-run mobster was also targeted in an arson attack.
Two of his relatives were in the house at the time but managed to escape serious injury.
He is also one of several criminals linked to the ongoing Coolock feud who have been warned of an active threat against them.
In July, members of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau foiled a hit on the 31-year-old.
In a separate investigation, members of the Armed Support Unit and local detectives raided a house in the Cabra area on Saturday.
Gardai recovered a loaded shotgun while a man, aged in his 40s, was also arrested.
Our exclusive images show gardai raiding the property before detaining the suspect, who sources said was not known to gardai for involvement in organised crime.
He is expected to appear in court this morning over the gun seizure.