Hugh Orde apparent target of Belfast bomb

 

The Chief Constable of the PSNI, Hugh Orde, was the apparent target of a bomb which was defused on the route of the Belfast City Marathon this afternoon.

Dissident republicans are suspected of planting the device which was discovered following a telephoned warning.

Some of the main competitors had already passed the part of the route where British army explosives experts were brought in to defuse the live device.

Author and journalist Eamonn Mallie received the bomb warning in a telephone call after the race started. He said an anonymous male caller told him "volunteers under command have abandoned a device."

"He told me the Belfast Marathon was just a frill on the six county state. "And then in the last line he said: 'Tell Hugh Orde we will get him the next time'."

Mr Orde, who has completed several marathons, was in the field for today's race. It is understood he pulled up early, however, due to a leg injury.

Organisers directed runners onto an alternative path clear of any danger. The bomb was discovered at Gideon's Corner, Newtownabbey on the outskirts of the city, a changeover point in the relay race.

Duncan McCausland, the Assistant Chief Constable for Belfast, was outraged at an attack that put so many lives at risk. He said: "This reckless act could have led to serious injury or worse for the sportsmen and women enjoying the Belfast Marathon, a well organised and attended cross-community event. "Those responsible have shown their disregard for the lives of Belfast residents and visitors alike.

"Police would stress that communities can defeat terrorism and would urge anyone with information to come forward." Marathon director David Seton insisted it was better to disrupt the route than stop the race altogether. "We had to make a decision very, very quickly what to do," he said. "We decided to re-route them. That's added a few hundred metres on to the race.

"But we thought it better to do that than anything else. The majority of people will run slightly more than the 26 miles, 385 yards, but there was no alternative. "It was either that or abandon the race which we obviously didn't want to do, with people having trained for this length."

Belfast's Lord Mayor, Tom Ekin, was incensed by the bombers for causing huge damage to the city's image.

He said: "They were prepared to try and remove one person with the potential risk of killing or maiming hundreds of others.

"That's the level of these people. They are damaging our whole society and we have to get rid of them.

"The sooner people who know these people turn them in to the police they might have been trying to attack (the better)."

The race was won by Kenyan athlete Erick Kiplagat in a time of two hours, 22 minutes and 20 seconds. Alan McCullough, a brother of former boxing world champion Wayne McCullough, was the first finisher from the North, in fourth place.