Murder intent in failed Belfast bomb - PSNI
Suspect mortar device discovered close to New Barnsley police station this morning
Army bomb disposal experts search the area where a suspected mortar bomb was discovered. The device was found close to New Barnsley station in north Belfast this morning. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Those responsible for a suspected failed mortar bomb attack on a police station in Northern Ireland had a clear intent to murder, a senior officer has said.
Army bomb disposal experts continue to examine the device found close to New Barnsley station in north Belfast but police said they believe it is a “mortar type”.
Temporary Superintendent Emma Bond said the the incident was a “despicable act”.
She highlighted that many houses and two primary schools are situated close to where the device was found and said there could have been multiple casualties if a mortar had been launched.
“Those who are behind this attack had very clear and I believe murderous intent,” she said. “This is a very reckless attack.”
The suspected mortar and launcher were found on waste ground at the foot of Black Mountain in north west Belfast around 500 metres to the rear of the police station at 7.15am.
An off duty police officer on the way to work and a passing taxi driver both reported the suspicious items.
Many houses lie between the site and the perimeter of the station.
Ms Bond said a clear line of inquiry was that the mortar was targeted at the PSNI facility.
She said police believe it was placed some time between last night and early this morning and was likely transported to the scene in a vehicle.
“Initial indications and my opinion are at this stage is that had this device successfully gone ahead or exploded then it would have had deadly and fatal consequences for an innocent member of the public, a member of the police service or anybody else,” she said.
The officer stressed how inaccurate and unpredictable mortar bombs are.
“Certainly from where the device has been found and from where the police station is there is a local residential estate, there is residential housing all around the area, local primary schools in very close proximity and absolutely a real concern that the community of west Belfast have been put at such extreme risk as a result of this incident.”
Two primary schools were forced to close and a funeral was disrupted by the security alert. Many residents remained out of their homes tonight while the operation to make the area safe continued.
The finger of blame will again point to dissident republicans, who are engaged in a campaign of violence against the security forces.
The incident comes after officers intercepted a van carrying mortars and launchers close to a police station in Derry earlier this month.
And last weekend three police officers escaped injury when an explosive device detonated within metres of them as they patrolled a coastal path on the outskirts of Belfast.
Stormont Justice Minister David Ford condemned today’s incident.
“This latest attempted attack is utterly disgraceful,” he said.
“There will be very few who will not join me in condemning the actions of those responsible.
“It is clear from the position of the mortar device that many people in the local community were put at significant risk including school children, families, police officers, the elderly and local construction workers.
“Furthermore the actions have caused significant disruption in the area. The blame for this rests on the shoulders of the perpetrators. They have disrupted normal life. Two schools were evacuated causing distress to parents collecting children from school.
“Outrageously this caused further distress to mourners attending a funeral.
“I want to thank the police and ATO (Army Technical Officers) for the work they are doing to protect the whole community.
“This was an attack on the community and on those who serve the community.”
Mr Ford joined police in calling for witnesses to come forward.