A suspected viable bomb has been found under a car belonging to a police officer at an east Belfast golf club on Saturday afternoon.
A tournament being held at the Shandon Park Golf Club was cancelled and at least 70 people evacuated. The course is close to the headquarters of the PSNI.
Shortly before 1pm this afternoon, the suspicious object was detected under a serving police officer’s car at the club in east Belfast.
Ammunition Technical Officers were called to the scene and, following examination, they have declared it to be a viable improvised explosive device.
Detective Supt Sean Wright, head of the Terrorism Investigation Unit, said: “It is very fortunate that this device was detected before it exploded and that no one was killed or seriously injured. It was clearly intended to kill the police officer. In placing such a device, terrorists have also put the officer’s family, neighbours and members of the public at serious risk.
“Attacks on police officers are attacks on the entire community and they are an attack on our democracy. Anyone who places an explosive device under a car in a built up area cares little about our communities. Their reckless violence cannot be allowed to continue.
“There are people within our communities who know who did this and there are people out there who knew this was being planned. There are also people out there who know those who are members of terrorist groups. My plea to all of those people is to tell us what they know and by doing so they will help to prevent this small minority dragging us back to the past.
“Our belief is that this attempted murder was carried by violent dissident republicans. They don’t care who they attack, they don’t care who they kill. They are simply anti-peace and anti-democracy.
"The community can be assured that the Police Service of Northern Ireland will do everything possible within the law to bring those responsible to justice. However it is very important that we get information about this incident quickly. We need support from members of the public in bringing those responsible to justice."
Outgoing PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said: "I utterly condemn the attempted murder of one my officers in Belfast today. My thoughts are with the officer and their family. Those who carried out this despicable attack have nothing to offer Northern Ireland but a return to the pain and suffering of the past."
Club member Alan Paterson said an individual leaving the course had noticed something under the car.
Someone immediately informed police and club members.
He added: “Within several minutes the police arrived and identified the object and said that they felt it was viable and that they should immediately evacuate the clubhouse and surrounding area, and also get everybody else off the golf course.
“It is very disappointing that things have been disrupted.
“We are delighted that if it was a viable device the person concerned was not injured or worse, so that is a big plus for everybody.
“We are a very mixed club. It is east Belfast, yes, but it is a mixed club and this sort of thing should not happen – it just should not happen.”
It is understood the car park area is covered by CCTV and footage will be scrutinised by detectives.
Police and army bomb disposal experts attended the scene.
The car park was packed with the vehicles of golfers attending a vice-captain’s day tournament.
A robot was used to investigate the suspect device.
Members had planned to watch Saturday evening's Champions League football final at the clubhouse.
Mr Paterson added: “A disappointing day, it was nice to plan but it is not going to happen.”
East Belfast Ulster Unionist Party MLA Andy Allen MBE, a former soldier, has described those responsible for placing an under-vehicle improvised explosive device under a police officer’s vehicle as reckless criminals.
“These criminals who are hell-bent on dragging Northern Ireland back to the bad days of the past will not be allowed to succeed. These are the despicable actions of cowards and should be condemned by all right-thinking people. Our thoughts are with the police office and their family.
“The terrorists’ actions are not supported by the overwhelming majority of people across Northern Ireland who want to live their lives in peace. There is no justification for the actions of these reckless criminals who need to be taken off our streets.”
Democratic Unionist Stormont Assembly member Joanne Bunting said it was a busy club with many golfers and social members on the premises, which is surrounded by residential communities.
“It would be absolutely reckless for anyone to target such a busy area with an explosive device,” she added.
“Whether or not this is a viable device remains to be seen but either way we should recognise the alertness and swift response of all involved.
“Nevertheless, it will have caused disruption, inconvenience and worry.”
Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry said on Twitter: "This must be condemned unreservedly. The PSNI and other bodies deserve our full support in combatting the terrorist threat. In serving the entire community and upholding the rule of law, we must remember that they sadly remain under constant threat."
Police are also attending a second alert in the St Mary's Drive area of Strabane following the discovery of a suspicious object close to junction of Beechmount Avenue.
St Mary’s Drive and Beechmount Avenue have been closed to traffic.
There are no further details at this time. – Additional reporting: Press Association