Bomb alert halts Belfast traffic

 

BELFAST city centre came to a halt yesterday after the first major bomb scare in the North since the IRA ceasefire ended earlier this month.

The Europa, the most bombed hotel in Europe, was evacuated along with surrounding businesses, and traffic was diverted away from Great Victoria Street as British army bomb disposal experts investigated a suspicious car. It turned out to be a hoax.

The area was sealed off at lunch time after police in Newry received a telephone warning that there was a bomb at the Belfast hotel. The caller did not give a codeword.

The RUC contacted the hotel's management who expressed concern about a blue Ford Mondeo car parked in front of the hotel for at least 24 hours.

Bomb disposal experts carried out four controlled explosions on the vehicle using a robot, but found nothing suspect. The all clear was given just under five hours later.

Meanwhile in Newry, an area around the Crown bar at Trevor Hill was cordoned off while bomb disposal officers examined a suspect package in the pub. It was later declared a hoax.

In Dunmurry, police were examining video footage after a petrol bomb attack on a Catholic family's home.

Stephen and Angela Lismore have suffered almost 60 attacks on their house at Black's Road since the mid 1980s. The latest incident happened late on Tuesday when two fire bombs were thrown at the house. No one was injured.

The family had 24 hour police protection for two months after a previous petrol bomb attack before Christmas and security cameras were also in place. Mr Lismore yesterday criticised the RUC for stopping the protection without letting the family know.

An RUC spokesman said, however, that the family had been notified when the police protection was withdrawn. The protection was placed as a "temporary measure" to allow the family to sell their home.

In a separate incident, a 52 year old Strabane man was in a stable condition in hospital after a so called "punishment beating" in his home by a gang armed with a sledgehammer and a baton. The victim suffered a broken cheek, fractured arm and severe bruising.