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Belfast on high alert

Schools, roads closed off in security scares

By Deborah McAleese and Will Ellison

Security was stepped up across Northern Ireland today amid concern dissident republicans may once again attempt to bring chaos to the streets of Northern Ireland.





Roads were sealed off — and a primary school closed — today following the discovery of suspicious objects in Belfast and police in Londonderry were hunting for two gunmen who shot a man in both legs during an attack in the Rosemount Gardens area of the city.

Army bomb experts were tasked to examine suspicious objects at Ligoniel Road, close to the junction of Wolfhill Road in north Belfast, and the Whiterock Road in west Belfast this morning.

Several roads were closed to traffic due to the security alerts, causing disruption to motorists during morning rush hour.

The alert on the Whiterock Road also forced the closure of St Aidan’s Primary School on the Springfield Road.

Three hundred children had to be sent home because of the discovery of the suspicious object.

Meanwhile, the railway line at Lake Street in Lurgan was closed this morning because of a burnt out vehicle on the line.

In Derry, two masked men broke into the house in the Rosemount Gardens area of the city at approximately 11.45 last night and shot their victim.

The assailants are described as being 5ft 10in and 6ft 2in tall, both are slim, and were wearing tracksuits, baseballs caps and scarves over their faces. The injured man was taken to hospital.

The security forces were placed on high alert following yesterday’s series of orchestrated dissident bomb hoaxes and hijackings.

The incidents have been met with fury from all political parties who insist that those responsible will not succeed in dragging Northern Ireland back to the past.

A van driver was doused in petrol during a number of terrifying hijackings in Belfast yesterday.

It is understood the driver, who is reported to work at a quarry in west Belfast, was pulled from the vehicle and drenched in flammable liquid before hijackers set fire to his lorry on the Whiterock Road.

The lorry incident occurred as dissidents attempted to bring chaos to the streets through an orchestrated campaign of hijackings and hoax bomb alerts – many around police stations– which resulted in road closures and traffic gridlock.

The M1 motorway has been reopened after it was closed due to an abandoned vehicle and the roads across Lurgan, where hijackings and attempted car thefts were also reported, have also been reopened.

The trouble flared at around 3pm yesterday when a stolen van was crashed into the gates of Holy Cross Church on the Crumlin Road and set alight. This was followed by a series of hijackings.

First Minister Peter Robinson said those responsible were "beneath contempt".

"Those who would try to destabilise and destroy Northern Ireland will fail. We won't be going back. The criminal terrorists responsible for the series of bomb scares and hijackings have no support whatsoever in the community," said Mr Robinson.

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