Huge viable bomb found near Newry blamed on dissidents


THREE SEPARATE security alerts over the weekend, including one involving a fully primed, large bomb near the Border, have raised fresh concerns about the threat from dissident republicans in the North.

Two bombs and a cache of weapons – all believed to be placed by dissidents – were intercepted outside Newry and in Belfast.

The most serious of these, the foiled bomb at Fathom Line near the Border, contained more than 250kg of explosives and was described as a “viable device”, capable of killing and causing major damage to property. It was made safe by an army team on Friday night.

A senior PSNI officer said the device was larger than had originally been estimated.

“The device contained two blue barrels with 125kg of home-made explosives in each one, and a detonator – all the equipment which meant this device was ready to go,” said district commander Alasdair Robinson.

“This was a very significant device. If this had exploded it would have caused devastation.

“To put it in perspective, anyone within 50 metres of this device would have been killed and anyone within 100 metres, seriously injured.”

Local Sinn Féin MLA and Stormont minister Conor Murphy said the bomb was part of a pattern of “sporadic activity designed to keep the dissidents in the headlines”. He added: “It’s very hard to ascertain what it’s all about – was it to do with the royal visit of Charles and Camilla, or was it just arbitrary?

“Certainly, it was a sizeable bomb and intended to do some serious damage, either to property or to police personnel, but in the absence of any rationale or sustained, logical campaign, we can only speculate as to the point of these incidents.

“People around here are just grateful it was thwarted, although the ongoing security alert still caused a lot of disruption.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said he believed the bomb was designed to lure and kill,police. The dissidents were “dangerous and dedicated terrorists, who are determined to cause serious harm, injury and death to members of the security forces regardless of the consequences to local communities”.

In addition to the discovery of the substantial device in Newry, detectives found a smaller device under a car in north Belfast, which was also blamed on dissidents.

In a third operation on Friday night, also in Belfast, detectives found a number of guns and ammunition. Several homes had to be evacuated.

The alert at Fathom Line outside Newry was raised when the abandoned vehicle, with its engine running, was spotted last Thursday. Mr Robinson said the reason for the device being abandoned was unclear, but the presence of regular police patrols had forced bombers to abandon devices in the past.

Police sealed off the cross-Border road within 12 minutes of being alerted. However, while some drivers had inadvertently driven past the bomb, others had continued along the route despite PSNI warnings.

“Many police services would struggle to get an international border road closed in this timeframe,” Mr Robinson added.

“There was some residual traffic following the closure and, while we made the public aware of the road closures and advised them to avoid the area, a few cars ignored our advice. We do everything in our power to protect human life.”