GARDAI have recovered the gun used in a gangland murder more than 11 years ago.
The handgun was found after an investigation by the force's Emergency Response Unit into a dissident republican group.
Details of the find emerged last night as officers questioned two suspects about the murder of drugs courier David McCreevy, who was gunned down outside his parents' home in February 2002.
McCreevy (23), from The Glade, Belgard Heights, Tallaght, Co Dublin, had been a key target in Operation Jumbo, a major garda crackdown on a gang who were believed at the time to be the biggest heroin importers into the State.
McCreevy was on bail on charges arising from his arrest in the previous November.
He had been detained and charged in connection with the seizure of over €100,000 of heroin and cannabis when gardai from the national drugs unit raided a series of houses in counties Dublin and Kildare.
Jumbo was aimed at a gang reckoned to have been shipping an estimated 40kg of heroin each month into the State.
The operation also focused on money laundering.
The murder weapon was recovered by armed gardai, who seized a number of guns and other items after targeting suspected dissident republicans following intelligence gathering in several counties last year.
Ballistic tests subsequently confirmed that the gun had been used to murder McCreevy.
But details of the outcome of the tests have been kept quiet up to now.
However, senior gardai told the Irish Independent last night that the gun could be linked forensically to the fatal shooting.
Officers from Tallaght station investigating the murder, backed up by members of the Special Branch, arrested two men yesterday morning at their homes in north county Dublin and in west Dublin.
They can be detained without charge for up to 72 hours.
McCreevy had been working as a courier around the capital for the gang leader, a major criminal from Crumlin.
He was gunned down as he left his parents' home to go to work on February 1, 2002. The gunman had been hiding in a white Nissan vanette, which had been stolen from Northbrooke Road in Ranelagh earlier that week.
The gunman jumped out as McCreevy emerged from the house, calmly walked up to the victim and opened fire several times.