A detailed security briefing has provided a terrifying insight into the ordeal of a taxi driver who was forced at gunpoint to deliver the bomb to MI5 headquarters at Palace Barracks in Holywood earlier this month.
At about 9.40pm on Sunday, April 11, two armed and masked gunmen hijacked his taxi in Ligoniel.
Later, somewhere in the north of the city, a beer keg bomb was placed in the boot of the vehicle.
The driver was told his family had been taken hostage, and at about 11.30pm he was ordered to drive his taxi to Palace Barracks.
It was a short journey — just 15 minutes but to the frightened driver it must have felt much longer.
Inside the boot, the bomb packed with more than a hundred pounds of explosives was on a timer — set to explode in one hour.
It’s understood the driver drove through a number of red traffic lights on his journey to Holywood. He was told that members of the dissident organisation plotting the attack on MI5 headquarters were tailing him, making sure he did as he was told.
The next part of the story is detailed in the security briefing:
“He arrived at approx 23.45, parked the vehicle in the lay-by approach into the Palace Barracks PVCP (permanent vehicle checkpoint) then approached the guard and informed them of the potential device.
“A cordon was established out to 400m from the vehicleThe Guardroom was evacuatedPSNI and ATO were tasked to the incident. All military locations in Northern Ireland were informed of the ongoing incident
“At 00.22 the device functioned (exploded) before the cordon was fully established, effectively destroying the vehicle, significantly damaging the perimeter fence directly adjacent to the vehicle and causing some blast damage to the guardroom.”
The taxi driver works for a major Belfast company, but the briefing confirms that had another firm been targeted by the dissidents “the device may have made it further into the camp”.
“The ability of the taxi firm to drive onto camp must be reassessed,” the briefing reads.
This is all part of the security review after the incident — all part of trying to stop it happening again. For the dissidents it was a headline attack on a big target — for the taxi driver, a journey and a night full of fear.