Police in Hong Kong say they seized and defused two completed bombs stashed at a middle school that could have “killed and injured large numbers of people.”
Authorities would not say how they discovered the explosives, nor did they say if the seizure was connected to the more than six months of political unrest that has left the city reeling.
The bombs found Monday night contained a total of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of high explosives and shrapnel, according to Alick McWhirter, a senior bomb disposal officer with the Hong Kong Police Department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD).
He said the two homemade bombs were likely built to be set off by mobile phones and were “complete, fully functional and ready to be used.”
“Both of these devices have only one function – to kill and to maim people,” McWhirter said.
McWhirter added this was the largest amount of explosive material seized since the protests began, and the first time police have interdicted completed bombs in the same time frame.
One bomb was bigger than the other, according to McWhirter, but he declined to reveal by how much.
Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the police force’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau said the ensuing investigation will focus on who put the bombs in the school, and why they were put there. Police are also probing if the case is connected to the seizure of a handgun on Sunday, Li said.
The school where the bombs were found, Wah Yan College, said on its website there is no evidence linking the incident to any members of the school and that the area where the bombs were found is easily accessible to the public.
Authorities have discovered caches of explosives and improvised bombs on multiple occasions since protests began in June over a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite suspected criminals to mainland China to face trial. The protest movement has since grown to include greater demands for political freedom and calls for more oversight into the city’s beleaguered police force.
Two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of high explosives were found in July and a homemade bomb was detonated in the densely populated neighborhood of Mong Kok in mid-October, but no one was hurt. Police would not say if the two cases are related.
Monday’s discovery comes nearly a month after protesters occupied universities in the semiautonomous Chinese city, leading to some of the most shocking scenes of destruction and chaos during the protests.
Protest-related violence has been subdued since then. Organizers of a largely-peaceful protest rally Sunday estimated that more than 800,000 people flooded the streets of Hong Kong Island in support for the movement. The police put the figure at 183,000.
CNN’s Sarah Faidell, Eric Cheung and James Griffiths contributed to this report