Belfast car bomb attack: police search for car with Irish registration

PSNI working with Garda to trace dissident republicans suspected of planting device

Police Service of Northern Ireland officers and  army bomb disposal experts at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast on Saturday where a  suspect device was found underneath  a PSNI officer’s car. Photograph: PA

Police Service of Northern Ireland officers and army bomb disposal experts at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast on Saturday where a suspect device was found underneath a PSNI officer’s car. Photograph: PA

 

The PSNI is liaising with the Garda as it tries to trace the suspected dissident republicans responsible for planting a “viable” bomb under the car of an off-duty police officer.

The bomb was discovered under the vehicle of the serving police officer at Shandon Park golf club in east Belfast on Saturday afternoon. The course was closed and about 70 people were moved from the scene as a British army bomb disposal team dealt with the device.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Wright appealed to anyone who saw a green Skoda Octavia with a Dublin registration 01-D-78089 or a silver Saab 95 with a Northern registration NFZ3216 in the general area to contact police.

He said the PSNI was liaising with An Garda Síochána about the car with the Dublin registration.

Reckless and vicious

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke described the failed bomb attack as reckless and vicious. “We are extraordinarily fortunate we are not talking about a murder of a police officer, of members of his family or indeed of members of the public,” he said.

At a press conference at PSNI headquarters in east Belfast on Sunday afternoon, Mr Clarke said he could not “understand what cause is advanced by attempting to murder a man who day in, day out seeks to serve his community”.

“In their evil attempt to murder a public servant they were prepared to put at risk his whole family, anyone in the vicinity, people in the golf club, people in that area,” he said.

“It is worth remembering that at that golf club there were families, there were children, there were people out enjoying their Saturday afternoon while other people were attempting to inflict murder and misery on a man who serves the community.”

Mr Clarke said the officer was “shaken” and “upset” by the attempt to murder him.

While no organisation has admitted the attack, it is understood one of the main investigative focuses is on the New IRA, which has carried out a number of similar such attacks and also was responsible for the recent murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry.

Det Supt Wright, who is head of the PSNI’s terrorism investigation unit, did not mention the New IRA but said the main line of inquiry was that “violent dissident republicans” were responsible.

Footage

He appealed for anyone in the area of the golf club who saw anything or had possible useful dashcam or CCTV footage to bring it forward to the police.

Det Supt Wright said the officer was in the habit of checking under his car although he did not say whether police believed the bomb was planted at the officer’s home or at the golf club. That detail was being worked through by investigating officers, he said.

He added that the bomb was “sufficiently sophisticated” to cause death and/or serious injury. “It was a viable device, it contained explosives, it was designed to kill, it was deployed in order to kill and maim. The officer is extremely fortunate that it did not go off as intended.”

Mr Clarke said that PSNI officers were aware of the need to be vigilant against such attacks. A similar bomb claimed the life of Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in 2011 while Constable Peader Heffron suffered devastating injuries in an under-car bomb explosion in 2010 in Randalstown, Co Antrim.