NI bomb 'could have killed family'

Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 00:00

A foiled attempt to murder a police officer in Northern Ireland was carried out by dissident republicans who could also have killed his family, police said today.

The Belfast-based Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) constable was about to take his wife and two young children out for Sunday lunch yesterday when he checked under his car outside his house in the city and discovered a viable device.

“If that officer had not checked under his car we would have been looking at a murder or multiple murders," Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said today.

Police were alerted and a British army bomb-disposal squad called out to defuse what was described as a “viable” device. A similar under-car bomb claimed the life of PSNI officer Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh in April 2011.

The security alert forced the closure of part of the Upper Newtownards Road and a number of houses were evacuated. Newtownards Road is one of the busiest arterial routes into Belfast. The officer’s home is close to PSNI headquarters at Knock and the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

Dissidents have repeatedly targeted security force members in recent years. Over the last five years there have been 115 arrests and 35 charges and 64 officers have had to leave their homes, a police spokeswoman said.

In November, long-serving prison officer David Black (52), was shot dead in a motorway ambush in Co Armagh as he drove to work. A group styling itself the “new IRA” claimed that attack. The faction was formed in the summer when a number of splinter groups joined forces.

Mr Hamilton appealed for anyone with information on the latest murder bid to come forward.

“All right-minded people need to condemn this, it is a repugnant and inhumane act,” he said during a Belfast press conference today. “We believe that the consequences of this could have been absolutely devastating for the officer, his family, the police family and for the community across Northern Ireland.

“Those people who are anti-peace...who are not prepared to move forward, have tried to murder this officer, we consider that repugnant, it is inhumane by any standards, in any society that is wrong.”

He said there was a severe threat level across Northern Ireland and appealed to officers to be vigilant and check under their cars.