Belfast homes evacuated as search for bomb continues

Sat, Aug 4, 2012, 01:00

THERE WAS disruption in Belfast yesterday after more than 100 homes and businesses were evacuated in the west of the city.

Police closed off a section of the arterial Glen Road to intensify their search for an unexploded mortar bomb, causing traffic disruption to commuters.

Residents, who were encouraged to stay with family and friends although an emergency centre was also made available, were told that they could be out of their houses throughout the weekend.

Businesses were affected too, including an industrial park that fell within the security perimeter. Police had to escort a young woman to a bridal shop to pick up her wedding dress.

The PSNI operation began with smaller searches more than a week ago, last Friday, when officers reported being shot at.

Chief Insp Emma Bond said the decision to evacuate came after “information was made through a local media outlet with a claim that a gun and a mortar attack had taken place”.

The dissident republican group calling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann claimed responsibility.

The risk of an unexploded mortar remaining in the built-up residential and shopping area needed to be minimised, Insp Bond said.

“It is imperative that we carry out this search as part of our investigation and we would ask the public for their patience and understanding,” she added.

The Sinn Féin MP for west Belfast, Alex Maskey, said the splinter group had shown “utter disregard for this community”.

He continued: “They need to issue a clear statement as to where this device would be, where it was fired from and why they carried out such a reckless attack in a busy, residential area.

“Further, they need to realise there is no community support for their actions. The people of Ireland have very clearly chosen a peaceful political path and they should follow suit”.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said people were “very frustrated” by the duration of the security alert.

“This has been going on for over a week and no one is even certain that a mortar is out there.

“That said, people understand the search has to be exhaustive, that no stone can be left unturned.

“People in Lenadoon and the rest of this community have gone through a lot over the past 40 years; no one wants to go back to the dark, old days.”