1,000 lb intended to inflict mass murder - RUC

 

THE IRA BOMB defused at Belfast Castle yesterday contained 1,000lb of home made explosives and was intended to inflict "mass murder", according to RUC Supt Mike Brown.

Following a three day security operation at Belfast Castle the British army and RUC recovered the explosives, a detonating device and command wire which were contained in two wheeled bins inside a stolen Renault van.

There were no commercial explosives, such as Semtex, which are regularly used to help activate home made explosives. But all the necessary component parts to detonate the "massive bomb" were present, the officer in charge of the follow up investigation said.

Supt Brown, RUC sub divisional commander at Antrim Road station, said he was in no doubt that the IRA's intention was to engage in "nothing less, than mass murder of police officers and perhaps soldiers assisting police".

The intention may have been to lure police and British troops into the castle grounds, where the bomb would have been detonated.

Supt Brown said it was horrifying enough that anyone would wish to murder officers and soldiers, but all the more horrifying that "this massive device was driven through a highly populated residential area to get to its destination."

He also said he found it reprehensible that the bomb was left near the castle, where a wedding reception and New Year's Eve parties were in progress, and in the grounds, where teenagers congregated.

The public must be vigilant against further such attacks, Supt Brown said. He viewed the current security situation as very serious" given such IRA actions.

Police say security is being stepped up across Northern Ireland, particularly in areas such as Belfast and Derry and in Border counties.

The assistant chief constable for Belfast, Mr Bill Davidson, said, there was no room for complacency. "We have been warning for some time of the likelihood of terrorist attacks and have taken steps to counter the effectiveness of paramilitary groups to inflict death and destruction," he added.

The bomb find is also expected to put further pressure on the loyalist paramilitaries, who are being blamed for recent attacks on republican's in Derry and Belfast.

Mr Billy Hutchinson, of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is associated with the UVF, said the IRA was out to kill the peace process and return to all out war.

The Combined Loyalist Military Command, umbrella group for the loyalist paramilitaries, would say their ceasefire was still intact, but loyalist frustration was growing by the hour. "I would be concerned that, if the Provos do not draw back from the actions of trying to take life, loyalists will go back completely and there will be no stopping them," Mr Hutchinson warned on BBC Radio Ulster.

"The coming months will tell us if the Provos are serious about peace. Republicans need to step back and ask themselves if they want to condemn young loyalists and republicans to another 25 years of war. Because that is what they are going to do," he said.

The Ulster Unionist MP, Mr Ken Maginnis, said similar recent incidents indicated "the folly of suggesting the IRA is prepared to make a quantum leap from terrorism to democracy. This is simply not true. The facts speak for themselves".

Mr Jonathan Stephenson, the SDLP chairman, said all that was evident from the republican movement was the "same old bankrupt physical force strategy".

Mr Michael McDowell, of the Progressive Democrats, said that the Government must speak out clearly and unequivocally against the efforts of the entire "Provisional movement to drag Northern Ireland, the South and Britain into a renewed orgy of atrocities".

He said: "Perhaps now the Irish Government will wake up to the reality that Sinn Fein is a political glove puppet whose mouth is operated by the trigger finger of the (IRA) Army Council."