Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Villiers condemns letter bombers

Theresa Villiers says she is concerned at the environment of fear the letter bomb incidents have created

The full focus of the authorities has been directed into the hunt for those behind a spate of attempted letter bomb attacks in Northern Ireland, the region's Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has insisted.

Ms Villiers, a target of one of four explosive packages sent through the post in recent days, said she was concerned at the environment of fear the sinister incidents have created.

The posted bombs, none of which detonated, have been blamed on dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

The current climate of apprehension was demonstrated this morning when security alerts were triggered at the law courts in Belfast and a few miles away in the grounds of Stormont when legitimate packages raised suspicions among cautious staff.

Yesterday the seat of the Northern Ireland Executive at Stormont Castle was evacuated after a viable letter bomb addressed to Ms Villiers was found.

On Monday a similar device was delivered to the offices of the Public Prosecution Service in Londonderry while late last week two explosive packages - one addressed to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable Matt Baggott and the other to one of his senior commanders - were intercepted at Royal Mail offices in Belfast and Lisburn.

Ms Villiers met with both Royal Mail workers and postal staff at Stormont Castle today to hear about their experiences.

"I wanted to say thank you to them and also provide reassurance that all focus is on trying to track down the people responsible for these attempts, to frustrate them and prevent them from carrying out their intentions to harm people in Northern Ireland," she said.

The Conservative MP said it was a huge source of frustration that the letter bomb spate had prompted disruption to everyday life.

She added: "It is also economically damaging and these attacks will never succeed in their political aims.

"The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland have chosen the democratic route, they won't be forced onto another pathway by violence or hoaxes or by the sort of disgraceful attempted attacks we have seen in the last few days."

Ms Villiers said while the threat posed by dissidents remained severe and that they were engaged in a "considerable amount" of activity, she insisted the vast majority of their actions were being thwarted by police on both sides of the Irish border.

She said the Government would do all it could to support the efforts of the PSNI.

This morning's security alert at the Royal Courts of Justice forced the evacuation of the premises in the Chichester Street area of the city centre.

It is understood the package that triggered the scare contained a number of batteries. Police were contacted after the item was examined by staff manning a security scanner.

At Stormont a postal sorting station was evacuated after concerns were raised about another package.

The PSNI later confirmed that nothing untoward was found in either incident and both mail items were bona fide packages addressed to staff members.

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