PSNI officer discovers bomb under car

Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 00:00

The vigilance of a Police Service of Northern Ireland officer almost certainly saved him from serious injury or death, an SDLP Assembly member has said following a failed bomb attack in east Belfast by suspected dissident republicans.

The officer was about to drive to work in the Upper Newtownards Road area of east Belfast at about 2pm yesterday when he took the precaution of checking under his vehicle, said SDLP MLA and Policing Board member Conall McDevitt.

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. Stormont Presbyterian Church was made available for these residents.

PSNI assistant chief constable George Hamilton said it was very fortunate that the device was detected before it exploded and that no one was killed or seriously injured.

‘Viable device’

“Initial investigations would indicate that this was a viable device placed below an officer’s car sometime in the last 48 hours. It was clearly intended to kill the police officer. His family and neighbours in the vicinity were also put at risk of serious harm,” he said.

“Obviously there are people out there who are still intent on causing murder and mayhem. Attacks on police officers are attacks on the entire community and cannot be allowed to continue,” he added.

“We know there are people within our communities who know who did this. We know there are people out there who know exactly what is being planned. My plea to them is not to allow this small minority to drag us back to the past,” said Mr Hamilton.

“Our belief is that this attempted murder was carried by those opposed to peace from within dissident republicanism.

“They don’t care who they attack, they don’t care who they kill. They are simply anti-peace and determined to carry on bringing pain and devastation to families and communities by maiming and killing.”

Mr McDevitt said the officer’s vigilance may have saved his life and urged all other officers to be equally careful and attentive to their security.

He said the attempt to murder the officer was “cynical and deplorable”.

“Those seeking to target police officers are undermining not only the stated will of the people of Ireland, who have long since rejected violence, but also the desire for a new beginning for policing in the North, which is shared by the majority of citizens,” he added.

‘Nothing to offer’

East Belfast DUP MLA Robin Newton said those who placed the bomb had nothing to offer the community except “heartache and sorrow”.

“Northern Ireland wants to keep moving forward. The vast majority of the community rejects such evil deeds. However, it is only by the co-operation of the community with the police that this small group of people who are wedded to terror can be removed from our streets,” he added.

East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, condemning the incident, said: “Anyone, from whatever background, considering an attack on the PSNI should remember that officers have the full support of the vast majority of people across Northern Ireland.”

Ulster Unionist Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers also condemned the attack, while the British Labour Party’s shadow northern secretary, Vernon Coaker, said it was “an utterly reprehensible attempt to murder a police officer and his family”.