Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

One security alert in Northern Ireland for every day of the year

Number of live devices is twice the total for 2012

A device explodes in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter this month

Bomb disposal officers have been called to an average of more than one security alert every day this year.

Fifteen years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the Army has been called on to deal with almost 400 alerts in 2013, according to a senior police officer.

During a 12-month period until the start of December there were 73 incidents during which a device exploded or was defused by the bomb squad – more than double the number of the previous year.

The most recent police figures show that until December 10 there were 365 security alerts in Northern Ireland. Subsequent incidents in recent weeks have pushed that figure closer to the 400 mark.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who is in charge of the deployment of the bomb disposal officers, said there was no room for complacency given the severe threat posed by dissident republican terror groups who have used sophisticated techniques in their murder bids.

Most attacks are blamed on dissident republican groups the New IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann.

Justice Minister David Ford said anti-peace process factions would not be allowed to hold the majority to ransom.

"It appears some are more wedded to continuing the struggle than to any possible cause," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It is time, 15 years after the Good Friday Agreement, that they recognise this community has moved on and will not tolerate such actions."

In recent weeks, a bomb in a holdall detonated close to Christmas revellers in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

It followed the attempted car-bombing of the Victoria Square complex in the city and the booby-trapping of a former police officer's car in east Belfast as he was about to take his daughter to school.

Mr Harris said the devices were being manufactured by various dissident republican groups, as well as some loyalists.

"Undoubtedly some of the devices show a degree of sophistication," he said, in an interview with Sky News Ireland Correspondent, David Blevins.

"I'd point towards the recent vehicle-borne bomb in the centre of Belfast, but also the attempt to murder a retired police officer. Those were sophisticated devices.

"Other devices are rudimentary in their construction, but equally as dangerous and life-threat- ening and that's why we need expert assistance and advice in dealing with these incidents.

"In the middle part of the last decade, particularly the period from 2002 to 2007, we really thought we were closing a chapter and it was shocking then, the upsurge in terrorism and the murders that were associated with that.

" And now, just this continuing steady beat of attacks and threat that is directed towards police officers and other members of society. It is surprising, indeed shocking, and very saddening in lots of ways."

Litany of bomb incidents that could have cost lives

January 18 Postal staff at a Royal Mail sorting office in Strabane intercept a small bomb contained in a suspicious package addressed to a senior police officer.

January 29 Children taking part in a cross-community project are evacuated from Greater Whitewell Community Surgery in north Belfast after a pipe bomb is discovered outside the centre.

February 26 A rocket launcher and a warhead are recovered by police searching a house in Hawthorn Street, west Belfast.

March 3 A major terrorist attack on a police station is thwarted in Londonderry following the discovery of four primed mortar rockets which are ready to be fired within minutes.

March 9 A bomb goes off as police officers respond to a call on the Duncrue pathway near the M5 motorway in north Belfast.

March 15 A failed attempt is made to bomb New Barnsley police station in north Belfast. A mortar and launcher are found on waste ground around 500 metres from the station.

March 30 Police escape injury after a bomb placed in a bin explodes in Lurgan.

May 17 A bomb is removed from the Foxes Glen area of west Belfast.

May 28 Two police officers escape serious injury after two pipe bombs are thrown at them in north Belfast. The officers are ambushed as they respond to an emergency 999 call in Ballysillan in the early hours of the morning.

June 18 Dissidents leave a bomb in one of Strabane's most densely populated estates. Around 30 people, including elderly residents, have to be accommodated in the local community centre.

August 12 Children pick up an unexploded bomb outside Woodbourne Police Station in west Belfast. It is one of two devices thrown at the back of the station.

August 26 Two deadly mortar launchers planted near Cullyhanna in south Armagh are discovered.

October 18 An explosive device is found during a security operation in Lurgan. The alert in the Sloan Street area results in the closure of two schools.

October 19 Police find a viable mortar device in the Lawrence Hill area of Londonderry near Strand Road police station.

October 22 A bomb is thrown at a PSNI patrol car in the Bogside area of Londonderry. The device misses the vehicle and fails to detonate.

October 23 A bomb is discovered in Newtownabbey after reports it had been thrown at a police patrol.

October 29 Army bomb disposal officers are called to Stormont Castle after a letter bomb is found addressed to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers. The Chief Constable of the PSNI, Matt Baggott, one of his senior police commanders, and the Derry regional office of the Public Prosecution Service had been similarly targeted during the previous week.

November 8 A former police officer finds a bomb under his car as he prepares to take his 12-year-old daughter to school in Belfast.

November 16 A pipe bomb is thrown at a police patrol in the Ballycolman Estate in Strabane. A member of the public lifts the bomb and moves it to waste ground.

November 20 Dissidents plant a bomb on a bus in Londonderry and order it to be transported to the city's main police station.

November 24 A bomb partially explodes in Victoria Street, Belfast, close to the city's flagship Victoria Square shopping centre. A motorist had been stopped by three masked men in Ardoyne, and a home-made bomb weighing 60kg loaded into his car. The men ordered the motorist to drive the device to the underground car park at the shopping complex.

December 13 A bomb explodes in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter on a busy Friday evening. The device detonates at Exchange Street West as the area is being cleared of Christmas revellers. A warning had been phoned to a newspaper, but police say the bomb was left in a different place to that indicated in the warning.

December 16 A man sets himself on fire as he tries to plant an incendiary device in a shop in the heart of Belfast.

The device partially ignites after being taken into the Golf Centre shop in Cornmarket. Staff kick it into the street.

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