A booby-trap bomb that exploded under a car being driven by a police officer’s partner could have killed anyone sitting in the passenger seat, the PSNI has said.
The device, which had been planted in the passenger side of the car, ignited as the woman reversed out of the driveway of a house at Kingsdale Park in east Belfast — less than a mile from PSNI headquarters.
It is thought that dissident republicans were targeting the woman’s partner, a long serving police officer.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott, who is currently in New Zealand for a public engagement, is understood to have been briefed about the attack. Although he has no immediate plans to return early to Northern Ireland he is “keeping an eye on developments”, a security source told the Belfast Telegraph.
The device exploded at around 7.30am yesterday as the police officer’s partner started the ignition of the red sports car.
The 38-year-old, who was the only person in the car at the time, escaped serious injury and was able to walk away from the vehicle. She was taken to hospital where she was treated for shock and a minor arm injury.
Chief Superintendent Brian Maguire described the device as “viable” and “capable of causing death or serious injury.”
He said that if someone had been sitting in the passenger seat they may have been killed.
“Clearly there are people out there in today's society who are still intent on causing murder and mayhem,” Mr Maguire said.
He said police were still investigating who the intended target was but it is understood the woman regularly gives her partner a lift to work. He is understood to be a police dog handler.
Mr Maguire declined to point the finger of blame at any organisation, saying: “Investigations are at a very early stage and all avenues are being explored.”
He added that police officers had, for some time, been advised to check under their own vehicles.
Police Federation chairman Terry Spence, who represents rank and file officers, said officers will not be deterred from doing their duty.
“All police officers and the wider police family must be vigilant about their personal security. This attempt to kill an officer was fortunately unsuccessful but we must be on our guard,” he said.
“I call upon the community to support the police and to give what information they can that will help us bring to an end the activities of the terrorists.
“In return I know that I speak for the rank and file when I make it clear: officers will not be in the least deterred from doing their duty and will serve the whole community to the utmost of their professional ability.”
Army bomb experts and heavily armed police officers remained in the area throughout yesterday and a number of PSNI road blocks were set up along the Kings Road.
The device has been removed for forensic examination. Police are hoping an examination of the make-up of the device will help determine who was behind the attack.
The PSNI has been on heightened alert ever since the Real IRA murdered two soldiers in Antrim and the Continuity IRA killed a police officer in Craigavon six months ago.
The security forces are understood to have received intelligence last week that an attack on PSNI or Army personnel was imminent.